Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
God-owned country

God-owned country

Author: Sudha G. Tilak
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: February 26, 2004
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/2004/Feb/26/printedition/260204/detOFF01.shtml

It's that time of the year when Chennai is at its best. Over 81 sabhas host more than 5,000 classical dance and musical performances.

Literally, there's a song on everyone's lips. But the oncoming summer breeze has a strange nip to it. For those who go to Chennai waiting for the next social revolution to take place for that perfect casteless and secular society will be amazed at the religious fervour the city exudes.

It's all over the place. The official figures may say that there are some 5,000 large and medium-sized temples across Tamil Nadu, but no one's keeping count of the tiny temples that are perched on the junction of many lanes across the state. Today, many of these shrines, often fitted on compound walls of homes to ward off evil at street corners, have mushroomed into important looking neighbourhood temples. They boast of long queues of devotees waiting for the morning darshan or circumambulating the adjoining peepul tree by evenings. 'Temples' that were not seen yesterday are now fluttering circulars on the forthcoming kumbhabhishekam festivities, a status-bestowing ceremony for a temple.

A decade ago, the average Chennaiwasi went about observing his religion within the confines of his home with women visiting temples on Fridays and Tuesdays. Now each morning heralds the power of a new deity in a temple in the city, nudging by the side of the latest glass and chrome mall. Locals also murmur gratefully about legends that include generous grants from Tamil Nadu's biggest political deity, Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha, for reviving a dead temple in Thanjavur or offering special prayers in another temple near Madurai. That is, when she herself is not photographed offering elephants to temples for bigger boons.

Those who wagged fingers at the high caste Hindu phenomenon of temple societies of the past are now witness to the slow co-option of the various castes and classes into the same religious fold they once shunned. A visit to any one of Chennai's temples from Mylapore Kapaleeswar temple to the Triplicane Sri Parthasarathy temple to the Mundakaniamman or Mupathamman temples will reveal how the caste doors have crumbled to allow in devotees from every strata of society. Advertisements add to the glamour. Actor Rajnikanth is reported to have frequented a certain Kalikambaal kovil. Following that bit of news, the entire God-fearing Kodambakkam film community religiously visit the temple. The local autorickshaw driver needs only the command: "Go to the cinema stars' temple" and he will promptly park you outside the gopuram entrance in George Town.

Gone are the days of wearing black in protest and street graffiti screaming "No God" in Chennai. Today, compound walls showcase posters of the latest godman or cult. It is no secret that the DMK politicians' womenfolk are religious, often spotted offering prayers in Chennai temples and have often been interviewed by local wags primly admitting that their husbands never 'interfere' with their being devout Hindus. Religion has also turned techno-savvy with Tamil websites facilitating to offer special prayers in temples, and sites carry special spiritual discourses. TV channels too beam serials complete with evil men tamed by the divine power of the goddess. Yesterday's sex bombs are now tele-baptised by these religious serials.

Hindu religious magazines (at last count, there were 25 of them) have pitched in with promotional offers of laminated pictures of Ganesha and free copper talismans with each issue. Astrological and religious magazines predict the auspicious colours for the year ahead with ominous commands: "Buying your mother a yellow coloured sari will ensure her health and special prayers on the second Friday of each month promise wedding bells for the unmarried."

Amid such holy vapours political pundits predict that the religious-minded parties have more of a chance at the electoral turnpikes this time around. The Tamils are, it seems, a God-fearing people.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements