Chennai Trip – Part 7


Follow Part 1 onwards from here

(The main entrance to the 300 plus years old temple – Click for higher resolution photo here)

A trip to India will not be complete without a trip to the majestic and historical temples, right?

So, even though our mission in Chennai was purely for shopping and other non-religious activities, we decided to visit at least one temple so as to “complete” the trip to India. We decided to visit the nearby Kapaleeshwarar Temple which was “walking distant” from the apartment.

It was rather a historical temple as per the entry below:-

The age of the temple is the source of much debate. The commonly held view is that the temple was built in the 7th century CE by the ruling Pallavas, based on references to the temple in the hymns of the Nayanmars (which however place it at the shore).

It is an example of the beautiful architecture of Pallavas. Further, the architecture of the temple appears to be 300–400 years old.

The scholarly view that accounts for the discrepancies is that the original temple was built on the shore at the location of the current Santhome Church but was destroyed by the Portuguese, and the current temple (which is 1-1.5 km from the shore) was built more recently. A small minority of people believe that the original temple was indeed on the beach, but that the sea has receded over centuries.

The Vijayanagar Kings rebuilt the temple during the 16th century. The original temple was destroyed by the Portuguese.

(Source: Wikipedia)

(The door in the interior part of the temple certainly looks old…very old. I was afraid to touch it)

An inscription at the entrance of the temple states this:-

Ptolemy, the great Geographer (AD 90-168) has referred to Mylapore in his books as Maillarpha, a well known sea port town with a flourishing trade. Saint Tiruvalluvar, the celebrated author of Tirukkural, the world-famous ethical treatise, lived in Mylapore nearly 2000 years ago.

The Saivite Saints of the 7th century, Saint Sambandar and Saint Appar have sung about this shrine in their hymns. St.Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus, is reported to have visited Mylapore in the 2nd Century A.D

Mylapore fell into the hands of the Portuguese in A.D.1566, when the temple suffered demolition; the present temple was rebuilt 300 years ago. There are some fragmentary inscriptions from the old temple, still found in the present shrine and in St.Thomas Cathedral

The temple was indeed old and historical and since we are already staying nearby and it is “off-peak” season, we decided to visit it despite busy with shopping.

(The sun was not that high but who want to walk bare feet on hot rocky floor? The “mat” helped a bit but we had to run, not walk to get to the other part. Malaysian temples fared better with proper roofing and beautiful cooler tiles)

We started early in the evening when the sun is not high and there was a cold breeze. Just when we were about to enter the temple, my son wanted a drink. We looked around and found that 5 – 6 shops that were facing the temple were selling nothing but religious things. None of them was enterprising enough to sell bottled drinking water. I had to walk all the way to a small sundry shop near the main road just to get couple of mineral water bottles.

We walked in after “surrendering” our shoes to the shoe guardian at the front – no token was given and the shoe guardian was busy chit-chatting with his friend. We were expecting our shoes to go missing when we returned. We realised that there was no place to wash our feet – people just walk in (from whatever place they had stepped on earlier) and start doing their prayers. We felt it was odd since in Malaysia, every temple would have a place to wash up before we can start with the prayers. Here we have one of the famous temples in the area and no place to wash our feet before doing prayers. It was no wonder the temple ground looked dirty especially those surrounding the deities. Clearly someone has missed the part on cleanliness but then again, we remember that this was India where anything goes.

With no place to wash our feet, we used some of the mineral water that we had and we opted to wipe our feet on a sorry looking rag and with a heavy heart, proceeded to do the prayers.

(Sorry for low resolution, poor quality photo but those f@#kers at the front insisted us on paying a load of money before we can take photos. A load of rupees may mean nothing to wealthy Western tourists but not for budget concerned Malaysians. Good thing that hand phones these days comes with a reasonable quality built-in camera)

There were plenty of signboards forbidding people from taking photos in the temple grounds. There were also signboards that stated that if one pays x amount of rupees, photography is allowed. We smell sham miles away and I instead opted to snap the interior on my mobile phone (I only took out my DSLR as we were walking out and even so, got into an argument with a guy who insisted us to pay. Thankfully a holier looking man came to our rescue and told the guy off. He too questioned the notion of charging people for taking photos. He then smiled at us and we thought an angel had come to our rescue).

The architecture of the temple structure is simply brilliant and there was an aura of mystery and historical. I loved the carvings on the wall and ceiling and wondered how craftsmen hundreds of years ago have worked on it. Most looked too ancient especially the part when it is said that made from the older structure. There was a feeling of a magical aura surrounding us when we stepped into the interior. When we walked in, we thought we were already been transported to ancient India.

(The very interior of the temple – I was speechless when I saw the sunlight rays beaming in from the small opening in the roof. The interior air smelled ancient but it was not that bad. It was not that crowded as well – thank God! If it has been during major religious season, the crowd inside this small area would have been lethal – there is only one small entrance for way in and way out)

We walked around, completing our prayers and felt somehow fulfilled. Since the ground is not clean to sit down and take our breath (and say silent prayers), we decided to leave the temple earlier. We walked out and noticed a couple of souvenir shops – we decided to hop over and check it out (some prayer items in Malaysia can be too expensive, so better to buy cheaper ones in India). We bought some items – it was cheap but not as cheap as we found out later – the fact that we were foreigners meant the prices of the items to increase immediately.

To be continued…

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Temples vs Schools


Actually this is something that me and my cousin have in our minds for some time now…

(Having beautiful temples is good but having better educated students is better – Image source: http://media.merchantcircle.com)

This will be, in my opinion, one of the best ideas to come when it comes to our fellow Indians’ behaviour with donation money and temples.

From Raged Indian:-

Why build thousands of temples when our Indian children can’t even afford to go to the school? Why the fuck do we need air conditioned temple? So that people will call our God ‘cool’ eh? The Tamil schools don’t even have a ceiling fan, and we have fully tiled expensive marble temples all over the country?

We have the biggest statue in the world, and we also have the first school to be located in shop houses. We point our fingers towards the politician, but shouldn’t we be looking in the mirror? The change should be with us. We’re the one to be blamed.

We hesitate to give to another human being, but we do not hesitate to give it to God. When had God used your money? He do not need your pocket money all la! If you’re saying by donating directly to the school, the schools might misuse the money; then what about all the money you give out to the temple; it goes to Lord Sivan’s pocket is it?

We are so scared about God and punishment that we eventually forget what He said in the first place, to help fellow human beings first, not Him. He does not need your fruits, rice or any other things. We, humans are the one who need it. We give out so many offerings to the God, using our hard earned cash, when none of them realistically would reach God.

Ayya veke ayam, attha veke atte kutiyum vettenethe pothum pa…

Annual festival in the temple and you take part in as much as ‘Abishegam’ (ceremonies) as possible. You pay between RM 51 to sometimes as higher as RM 1001 for something that is solely based on your faith. Is there a price for faith? Will God not accept prayers from the poor?

If all this funds can be redirected to schools, imagine how many thousands of children would study in a much more excellent condition than below cramped and hot classrooms?

It is a noble idea especially people have been bugging me to donate “generously” to temples and especially on certain days of the year so that me and my family will get that “extra” blessings. Well, it has not be to only Indian students but to any Malaysian students who been derived of proper environment for better educations. Poor students in schools, facilities depleted schools and struggling charity homes should take precedent to cash rich temples.

Further, with many small temples still hesitating to merge with other smaller temples and create a more efficient temple administration, depriving them of the extra cash in yearly festival donations may just be the trigger to force them to merge into one bigger temple.

Read Also

Temple Fiasco Revisited

Samy Vellu & RM50 Million?

Hindraf Rally Remembered


(Government’s response to Hindraf’s 2007 Rally. Image source: http://www.skthew.com)

25th November 2009 marks the 2nd anniversary of the unprecedented street rally by Indians under the now “banned but not crippled” organisation called Hindraf in this country.

From Wikipedia:-

The 2007 Hindraf rally was a rally held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on November 25, 2007.

The rally organizer, the Hindu Rights Action Force, had called the protest over alleged discriminatory policies which favour ethnic Malays. The rally was the second such street protest after the 2007 Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur on November 10, 2007.

The rally started when a crowd estimated to be between 5,000 to 30,000 people gathered outside the Petronas Twin Towers at midnight, early Sunday morning. At least 240 people were detained, but half of them were later released.

Read Hindraf rally related posts:-

Hindraf protest – realistic way out?

Hindraf – not the end of the story

Hindraf – a year end thought

Hindraf – police and road blocks

Hindraf – a thorn that won’t go away

When Hindraf took to the streets in November 2007, certainly it was not done overnight. Hindraf existed long before that and often in thick of actions when it comes to demolishment of temples particularly in the state of Selangor.

Hindraf is a coalition of 30 Hindu non-governmental organizations committed to the preservation of Hindu community rights and heritage in a multiracial Malaysia (source)

Demolishment of temples under the old Selangor MB, Khir Toyo was one of the catalysts for the organisation to take the matter to the streets.

The case against Hindraf

The rally itself was tainted with accusations of being highly racist (that it only takes care of Indians and not Malaysians in general) and was not helped by the fact that Hindraf was trying to seek help from a foreign sovereign instead of the Malaysian King who in fact is our real sovereign (which many called it as treason on the highest order) and some of the demands in the full list of demands was worded too extreme and unreasonable.

The police at one point even painted that there was a connection between Hindraf and the Tamil Elam Tigers who were fighting for separate state in Sri Lanka but it was a case that was never proven to this day.

Hindraf vs MIC

One of the biggest implications of the Hindraf’s rally, in my opinion, was that it created a room for many Indians to start questioning the role of MIC when it comes to the welfare of Indians in this country. Long before there was general election and long before MIC realised the lost of Indian support in the ballot box, there was already Hindraf movement all over the country participating in prayers in the many temples and getting involved when there are any issues affecting the community.

Hindraf’s role in getting involved in the community’s issues was a role that I think MIC could have played more effectively but with older issues like the Telekom shares remains unsettled, many have lost confidence in MIC’s ability to continue to champion the plight of the community. Hindraf provided the alternative avenue. What more when there was a lack of coordination and solution provided when it faced with demolishment of temples in Selangor? This is why PKR, DAP and even PAS managed to grab the big swing in Indian voters during the general election.

Makkal Sakthi

Another implication that resulted from Hindraf rally and before that with Bersih and protest against toll hike was the high handedness of the government when it comes to dealing with dissent voices of the people. Instead of friendly dialogue, forum or close knit communication, the response was often come in form of arrests, tear gas, water cannon and arrogant discard of issues. The Hindraf leaders were promptly arrested under the ISA and spent almost 2 years in custody. There was a clear lack of engagement between the government with the people and the problems facing all Malaysians.

The cry “Makkal Sakthi” (or People’s Power) became famous battle cry during the last general election and it has impact on all walk of life (not limiting to Indians under Hindraf). As V mentioned in the movie V for Vendetta

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people”

Next chapter

Admittedly Hindraf is now seen has lost their core objective, mainly due to several reasons such as some of the states where they were very active such as Perak and Selangor have fallen into the opposition hands, there has been more swing towards Indian welfare and focus on the problems faced by the community by the government under Najib’s administration and more importantly, due to breakup of Hindraf itself into many small factions including one who formed their own political party.

Hindraf’s rally for right or wrong, did achieve one thing that it was meant to do – that is to create awareness, both for the government and for the Indians who been ignorant of the issues facing the community.

Thankfully things are better under the Pakatan Rakyat’s administration (except perhaps on the Kampung Buah Pala incident) and to some extent, under Najib’s administration.

It is hoped that the government irregardless it is from BN or PR, to engage the issues with more conviction and effective rather than silencing them in swift harsh actions. Otherwise, Malaysians will be far from being one as Bangsa Malaysia and street rallies like the one organised by Hindraf will be part of our daily life.

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