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Can the Brahmin Agraharams be resurrected , rejuvenated and restored in TN villages ?!

Tkudi

Gold Member
Gold Member
Once upon a time , every village and town in Tamil Nadu had a jewel in the form of Agraharam ( brahmin street) usually around the main temples of the village or town. In 1950s,there were only 12 districts in Tamil Nadu ( then TN was part of Madras Presidency that had total of 28 districts) as against 38 now. Those were : Chinglept, Coimbatore, Nilgiris, North Arcot, Madras,Madurai, Ramanathapuram Salem, South Arcot, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Thiruchirapalli. Of these, Thanjavur and Thiruchirapalli were most important for Tamil Brahmins. Due to the benevolence of kings of Chola dynasty, Pallava, Pandya and Marathas who ruled these areas at different periods , number of Brahmin settlements came up as an adjunct to various temples built by these kings almost in every village under their rule. Large parcels of agricultural lands were donated to the temple and also to the Brahmins who were held at high esteem by the royalty. There were approximately 12000 odd villages in TN those days and each one of them had one or more agraharam where Brahmins led peaceful and pious life. Apart from being temple priests , Brahmins were also in the professions of school teachers and village karnams. Almost 90% of the school teachers at the primary level were Brahmins who considered the profession very noble and sacred. The villagers respected Brahmin community for their cultured and disciplined life . Karnam ( village accountant and records keeper) was another profession which was hereditary until 1977 ( MGR replaced it with Village Administrative Officers as a state cadre) was also dominated by Brahmin community. Temple priests, village school teachers, village karnams as their main source of livelihoods , the community and their agraharams prospered and flourished particularly in Chola desam ( Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt). It is said that Chola kings and queens built close to 1000 Shiva temples in their kingdom .
in 1967, with the advent of the Dravidian government ( with their anti- Brahmin and anti-God plank) in power, the decline of Brahmin community and deterioration of agraharams started. The decline was felt very strongly in Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt , the stronghold of Dravidian parties. Brahmin teachers lost their jobs and temples were not supported much. Slowly, the population started moving to nearby town, cities, outside the state or even abroad. Agraharam houses were abandoned or sold at distress prices to other communities. Many of these houses were bought by wealthy Muslim community indirectly from the Brahmins .In Mayavaram town , the famous Brahmin agraharams like Pattamangalam and Mahadana were converted to commercial premises owned by Muslims. Villages like Rajagiri, Ayyampettai, Pandaravadai, Papanasam which were once burstling with agraharams are now nearly Muslim villages. In Needur near Mayuram, the famous Shiva temple ( Somanathaswami temple) is surrounded on all sides by Muslim community occupying erstwhile agraharams. It is reported that Muslims prefer to reside in Brahmin occupied houses with the belief that no harm will come to them in these houses that have been sanctified and purified by pujas, prayers etc by Brahmins for years.
Yet, there are still some villages where agraharams have survived and occupied by Brahmin families. Udayalur, Thippirajapuram, ( near Kumbakonam) , Ganapathy Agraharam, Echangudi are some of the villages , I know of, where agraharams are still intact and breathing. Elders have returned to these villages to spend their last years in their places of birth. Many more such villages may be existing here and there , but 90% of agraharams have disappeared or in the process of extinction. Kerala government has declared agraharams as heritage sites giving full protection for their existence. It will be too much to expect such kind and graceful gesture from TN government.
Tamil Nadu agraharams can be rejuvenated , resurrected, reincarnated and restored only by the Non Resident Tamil Brahmins who live in various countries and financially strong. If each one of them decide to buy a house in a Agraharam of their choice, that is still existing , then original glory can be slowly restored over a period . With changing political scenario in the country , there will be better times for Tamil Brahmins in future. The NRI who buys an Agraharam house can let it out to the local priest at nominal rent so that the house is maintained properly. This way , the local Temple priest can also be helped . These priests do not have any income other than what devotees drop on the archanai plates.
In 1950, the total population of TN was about 3 crs of which Brahmins constituted 3% and now out of nearly 8 cr population , Brahmins may be just 1% or so. Brahmins today are financially better placed than 1970s thanks to the computer and digital world that opened up when other avenues were closed for them . So, I request the Brahmin NRIs to think seriously how they can help and restore our Agraharam heritage.
 

krish44

Well-known member
Very interesting post.
My sambandhi lived in agraharam a nd became village admin officer. Well respected by other communities. He owned agricultural lands. He shifted from agraharam to his land he owned and built a huge mansion three storeyed and did farming using agricultural labour. He has livestock for milk . He educated his sons in IT in city .He still lives on his farm with his wife.
 

krish44

Well-known member
My parents in agraharam preferred to head to north india and settled in delhi to become govt servants. They sold off their lands for a pittance.and lost their rural base.Locals bought their lands which were fertile I do not know in retrospect who was better. Those who stayed back or those who drifted to cities all over India
 

renuka

Well-known member
Once upon a time , every village and town in Tamil Nadu had a jewel in the form of Agraharam ( brahmin street) usually around the main temples of the village or town. In 1950s,there were only 12 districts in Tamil Nadu ( then TN was part of Madras Presidency that had total of 28 districts) as against 38 now. Those were : Chinglept, Coimbatore, Nilgiris, North Arcot, Madras,Madurai, Ramanathapuram Salem, South Arcot, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Thiruchirapalli. Of these, Thanjavur and Thiruchirapalli were most important for Tamil Brahmins. Due to the benevolence of kings of Chola dynasty, Pallava, Pandya and Marathas who ruled these areas at different periods , number of Brahmin settlements came up as an adjunct to various temples built by these kings almost in every village under their rule. Large parcels of agricultural lands were donated to the temple and also to the Brahmins who were held at high esteem by the royalty. There were approximately 12000 odd villages in TN those days and each one of them had one or more agraharam where Brahmins led peaceful and pious life. Apart from being temple priests , Brahmins were also in the professions of school teachers and village karnams. Almost 90% of the school teachers at the primary level were Brahmins who considered the profession very noble and sacred. The villagers respected Brahmin community for their cultured and disciplined life . Karnam ( village accountant and records keeper) was another profession which was hereditary until 1977 ( MGR replaced it with Village Administrative Officers as a state cadre) was also dominated by Brahmin community. Temple priests, village school teachers, village karnams as their main source of livelihoods , the community and their agraharams prospered and flourished particularly in Chola desam ( Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt). It is said that Chola kings and queens built close to 1000 Shiva temples in their kingdom .
in 1967, with the advent of the Dravidian government ( with their anti- Brahmin and anti-God plank) in power, the decline of Brahmin community and deterioration of agraharams started. The decline was felt very strongly in Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt , the stronghold of Dravidian parties. Brahmin teachers lost their jobs and temples were not supported much. Slowly, the population started moving to nearby town, cities, outside the state or even abroad. Agraharam houses were abandoned or sold at distress prices to other communities. Many of these houses were bought by wealthy Muslim community indirectly from the Brahmins .In Mayavaram town , the famous Brahmin agraharams like Pattamangalam and Mahadana were converted to commercial premises owned by Muslims. Villages like Rajagiri, Ayyampettai, Pandaravadai, Papanasam which were once burstling with agraharams are now nearly Muslim villages. In Needur near Mayuram, the famous Shiva temple ( Somanathaswami temple) is surrounded on all sides by Muslim community occupying erstwhile agraharams. It is reported that Muslims prefer to reside in Brahmin occupied houses with the belief that no harm will come to them in these houses that have been sanctified and purified by pujas, prayers etc by Brahmins for years.
Yet, there are still some villages where agraharams have survived and occupied by Brahmin families. Udayalur, Thippirajapuram, ( near Kumbakonam) , Ganapathy Agraharam, Echangudi are some of the villages , I know of, where agraharams are still intact and breathing. Elders have returned to these villages to spend their last years in their places of birth. Many more such villages may be existing here and there , but 90% of agraharams have disappeared or in the process of extinction. Kerala government has declared agraharams as heritage sites giving full protection for their existence. It will be too much to expect such kind and graceful gesture from TN government.
Tamil Nadu agraharams can be rejuvenated , resurrected, reincarnated and restored only by the Non Resident Tamil Brahmins who live in various countries and financially strong. If each one of them decide to buy a house in a Agraharam of their choice, that is still existing , then original glory can be slowly restored over a period . With changing political scenario in the country , there will be better times for Tamil Brahmins in future. The NRI who buys an Agraharam house can let it out to the local priest at nominal rent so that the house is maintained properly. This way , the local Temple priest can also be helped . These priests do not have any income other than what devotees drop on the archanai plates.
In 1950, the total population of TN was about 3 crs of which Brahmins constituted 3% and now out of nearly 8 cr population , Brahmins may be just 1% or so. Brahmins today are financially better placed than 1970s thanks to the computer and digital world that opened up when other avenues were closed for them . So, I request the Brahmin NRIs to think seriously how they can help and restore our Agraharam heritage.
I remember reading the same post sometime ago in forum or am I having a Deja vu?..
Not sure..may be some other member had voiced similar views too before.
But I am pretty sure reading it and remember even one reply where one of the members said Brahmins who have left the country prefered to sell their homes to Muslims because Muslims pay well and promptly due to having money earned from Gulf countries.
Very famililar post.
 

prasad1

Well-known member
Praveen had a post on similar lines


On personal level I will never settle in that kind of a place. My forefathers left TN (Madras) in early 1900. My father gave up the land to my uncle who alone stayed back. We never returned to that village again. My mothers side stayed in Madras proper.

You want to set up a Brahmin island surrounded by hostile neighbors. That is not a good idea. Let us accept that Brahmins have lost their exalted position in TN. It is crying over a lost milk. Let us move on.
Build and stay where you are welcome and accepted.
 
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Tkudi

Gold Member
Gold Member
Praveen had a post on similar lines


On personal level II will never settle in that kind of a place. You are setting up a Brahmin island surrounded by hostile neighbors. Let us accept that Brahmins have lost their exalted position in TN. It is crying over a lost milk. Let us move on.
Actually, there is no hostility at the ground level now with people of other castes. Agraharam is a traditional Brahmin habitat which one will dispute or prevent its re-emergence. But ,brahmins will have no worthwhile occupation to pursue at the village level , so there is hesitancy in buying property. Unless someone is like Mr Sridhar Vembu ( billionaire entrepreneur, originally from a village in Thanjavur district) setting up a software company in a Tenkasi village and lived there for sometime. Such initiatives can contribute to re emergence of agraharams.
Mantra Koodam , a heritage resort near Tiruvidaimarudur and IndEco Heritage Resort in Swamimalai have recreated Agraharam type houses ( as guest villas) in their resort and people love to visit and stay there .
 

prasad1

Well-known member
Actually, there is no hostility at the ground level now with people of other castes. Agraharam is a traditional Brahmin habitat which one will dispute or prevent its re-emergence. But ,brahmins will have no worthwhile occupation to pursue at the village level , so there is hesitancy in buying property. Unless someone is like Mr Sridhar Vembu ( billionaire entrepreneur, originally from a village in Thanjavur district) setting up a software company in a Tenkasi village and lived there for sometime. Such initiatives can contribute to re emergence of agraharams.
Mantra Koodam , a heritage resort near Tiruvidaimarudur and IndEco Heritage Resort in Swamimalai have recreated Agraharam type houses ( as guest villas) in their resort and people love to visit and stay there .
Actually, there is no hostility at the ground level now with people of other castes. Agraharam is a traditional Brahmin habitat which one will dispute or prevent its re-emergence. But ,brahmins will have no worthwhile occupation to pursue at the village level , so there is hesitancy in buying property. Unless someone is like Mr Sridhar Vembu ( billionaire entrepreneur, originally from a village in Thanjavur district) setting up a software company in a Tenkasi village and lived there for sometime. Such initiatives can contribute to re emergence of agraharams.
Mantra Koodam , a heritage resort near Tiruvidaimarudur and IndEco Heritage Resort in Swamimalai have recreated Agraharam type houses ( as guest villas) in their resort and people love to visit and stay there .
Are Non-Brahmins allowed in these projects? If yes then they are not true agrharams?
 
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Tkudi

Gold Member
Gold Member
Are Non-Brahmins allowed in these projects? If yes then they are not true agrharams?
It might have been the case 100 years ago that Agraharams were inhabited only by brahmin community. But in 1960s when I lived in a agraharam in Thanjavur district, there were couple of saiva pillaimar familes living in the same agraharam , co existing very peacefully. I would call agraharam as a concept : families living as a close knit community sharing personal bond with the neighbours with same set of beliefs and life style : pure vegetarian, peaceful, religious ,simple living and high thinking .
In fact in all agraharams, all houses share common walls with the neighbours ( left side wall belongs to the owner of the house and he has to repair the damage) , there is a kitchen, puja room, internal veranda ( called mutram), outside veranda ( called thinnai ) , a passage ( called rezhi) , a ‘well ‘ mostly inside the house near kitchen and a backyard with bathroom and toilet . Houses are generally spacious offering some privacy even in crowded households. Most houses keep flower plants to offer flowers to the god. There is always a temple at the end of Agraharam managed by the community, either a Ganesha or Anjeneya or Shiva or Vishnu being the principal deity. No house in the Agraharam will be built taller than the temple. It is generally a tiled roofed house, usually country tiles and in some prosperous houses it will be mangalore tiles. Residents felt very safe and secure and when men folk left station for some work their families were in the care of neighbours . Such a concept was prevalent in 1950s and 1960s in Mumbai when the chawl type ( 2 room tenements with common a toilet) system was popular in brahmin localities in Matunga and Girgaum areas.
 

renuka

Well-known member
Are Non-Brahmins allowed in these projects? If yes then they are not true agrharams?
The word Agraharam means the " the tip of a garland" , denoting the lay out of houses on both sides like a garland and a temple being at the tip of it.

So if houses are built in that format, it qualifies as an Agraharam.

The word Agraharam does not indicate the Varna of its occupants.

If a residential area is situated within a temple area, the occupants have to adhere to the rules and regulations of a conducive life style.

There is a residential area in Malaysia called Raudhah Ville where its an Islamic housing project but houses can be owned by Non Muslims too provided all adhere to some basic rules of no late night parties.
No open consumption of alcohol ...not encouraged to keep dogs but no strict no dog policy.
Otherwise no issue..non muslims are free to practice their religion too inside their homes.

So why cant an Agraharam be like that too in modern days?

Open it doors to people who are into spiritual way of life.
Not all Brahmins adhere to spiritual way of life these days.
And not all Non Brahmins are not spiritual.

So make some rules like those who want to buy the houses should be vegetarians, leading a non materialistic spiritual life, temple goer etc.
No late night parties..no alcohol consumption..etc.
Let it be an Ashram atmosphere.


Surely that way it would be conducive.
 
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Tkudi

Gold Member
Gold Member
The word Agraharam means the " the tip of a garland" , denoting the lay out of houses on both sides like a garland and a temple being at the tip of it.

So if houses are built in that format, it qualifies as an Agraharam.

The word Agraharam does not indicate the Varna of its occupants.

If a residential area is situated within a temple area, the occupants have to adhere to the rules and regulations of a conducive life style.

There is a residential area in Malaysia called Raudhah Ville where its an Islamic housing project but houses can be owned by Non Muslims too provided all adhere to some basic rules of no late night parties.
No open consumption of alcohol ...not encouraged to keep dogs but no strict no dog policy.
Otherwise no issue..non muslims are free to practice their religion too inside their homes.

So why cant an Agraharam be like that too in modern days?

Open it doors to people who are into spiritual way of life.
Not all Brahmins adhere to spiritual way of life these days.
And not all Non Brahmins are not spiritual.

So make some rules like those who want to buy the houses should be vegetarians, leading a non materialistic spiritual life, temple goer etc.
No late night parties..no alcohol consumption..etc.
Let it be an Ashram atmosphere.


Surely that way it would be conducive.
I fully agree with your thoughtful views and endorse your suggestions. I am of the view that anyone who follows a disciplined , spiritual life is a brahmin and not by just birth. I will call musician Ilayaraja as a brahmin.
 

renuka

Well-known member
I fully agree with your thoughtful views and endorse your suggestions. I am of the view that anyone who follows a disciplined , spiritual life is a brahmin and not by just birth. I will call musician Ilayaraja as a brahmin.
Thank you...I have seen videos of many Westerners who are into Vedic lifestyle from ISCKON buying houses in semi rural areas in India..they are into organic farming and keep cows too.
They are into yoga and also do Nagasankirtan around the area in the early mornings.
They also teach the village kids chanting mantras, bhajans, drawing..reading etc.

May be some developer can develop ashram based housing areas ..I am sure quite a lot of spiritual minded foreigners would be interested to stay there.
 
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Tkudi

Gold Member
Gold Member
Thank you...I have seen videos of many Westerners who are into Vedic lifestyle from ISCKON buying houses in semi rural areas in India..they are into organic farming and keep cows too.
They are into yoga and also do Nagasankirtan around the area in the early mornings.
They also teach the village kids chanting mantras, bhajans, drawing..reading etc.

May be some developer can develop ashram based housing areas ..I am sure quite a lot of spiritual minded foreigners would be interested to stay there.
Yes . I am aware of ISKON devotees spiritual way of life . During my travel to Budapest , I had an opportunity to visit Krishna Valley , an ISCON settlement about 150 kms away from the city where about 200-250 Krishna devotees (mostly east Europeans) live a village type life with own farming, cows, garden, beehive , etc. ( more details may be available on the net) . The head was one Mr Sivarama swami (an hungarian ) who also used to visit Mumbai frequently to deliver lectures at Iscon centres. At that time in 1990s , they did not use even electricity but hurricane lamps for lighting. While westerners are moving towards ancient Hindu Vedic spiritual life style, we are moving towards ultra modern , materialistic life style. We must wait for the wheel to come full circle !!
 

kamu

Member
Actually, there is no hostility at the ground level now with people of other castes. Agraharam is a traditional Brahmin habitat which one will dispute or prevent its re-emergence. But ,brahmins will have no worthwhile occupation to pursue at the village level , so there is hesitancy in buying property. Unless someone is like Mr Sridhar Vembu ( billionaire entrepreneur, originally from a village in Thanjavur district) setting up a software company in a Tenkasi village and lived there for sometime. Such initiatives can contribute to re emergence of agraharams.
Mantra Koodam , a heritage resort near Tiruvidaimarudur and IndEco Heritage Resort in Swamimalai have recreated Agraharam type houses ( as guest villas) in their resort and people love to visit and stay there .
what you say is partially true - the brahmins nowadays have become more used to a city life and are NOT likely to fit into a village life style - A relative of mine, had inherited a house in an agraharam, pretty close to tier ll city but decided to sell the agrahaaram house , as he felt that it may not be possible for him to " adjust " to the others there ! - quote " everybody pokes their nose into your daily life , it can be distressing a times "- unquote . But he lives in a huge apartment complex in another tier II city, and people from all over the complex drop in at all odd times !! Its how you adjust to your neighbours and friends - and your lifestyle. He is not bothered about caste / brahmin/nonbrahmin, etc.
 

renuka

Well-known member
Yes . I am aware of ISKON devotees spiritual way of life . During my travel to Budapest , I had an opportunity to visit Krishna Valley , an ISCON settlement about 150 kms away from the city where about 200-250 Krishna devotees (mostly east Europeans) live a village type life with own farming, cows, garden, beehive , etc. ( more details may be available on the net) . The head was one Mr Sivarama swami (an hungarian ) who also used to visit Mumbai frequently to deliver lectures at Iscon centres. At that time in 1990s , they did not use even electricity but hurricane lamps for lighting. While westerners are moving towards ancient Hindu Vedic spiritual life style, we are moving towards ultra modern , materialistic life style. We must wait for the wheel to come full circle !!
Almost like Amish people who dont always use electricity.
 

kamu

Member
Almost like Amish people who dont always use electricity.
Yes - the westerners moving towards Sanatana Dharma is a minuscule quantity ; one can say, quite a few of them are getting interested . But our people , to have to move away from the western life style, is the majority - for, with today's living, it's easier to follow tha than revert to our old ways 1
 

prasad1

Well-known member
Agraharams in Tamil Nadu are increasingly turning Islamic at an alarming pace. Agraharams are centuries-old ancient traditional Brahmin settlements in villages. It consists of row houses flanking both sides of a road with its own Temple and all activities of the residents based on the Temple ecosystem. The Agraharam row houses, also known as Chaturvedimangalams are very well planned, spacious, and uniquely built structures to suit the Dharmic lifestyle of the Brahmanas.

Agraharams incorporated a way of life centred around temples and religion and was spread all over South India. When we toured Tanjore, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Karaikal districts, we were shocked by the scenes we saw in the Agraharams.

The temples in Agraharam now look like dilapidated halls. There are women wearing burqas and bearded men wearing skullcaps and Lungi populating the Agraharams today.

Agraharams in important cities like Sirkazhi, Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam, Nagore and Thiruvarur have become Islamic. In the Tanjore region, Agraharam at Chakrapalli near Ayyampettai on the Tanjore-Kumbakonam Highway has now been converted into Hajiyar Street and Qaide Millat Street.

Only the 1500 year old Chakravakeswarar Temple remains in the Agraharam. Non-Muslims are not be able to walk in these areas after 5 pm due to harassment and fear.

There are signs of huge agraharams in Rajagiri near the Chakra school. In other towns only temples remain in Agraharam. But here even the Temple has vanished. The signboards of Jinnah Street, Qaid e Millat Street and Hajiyar Street are shining brightly in the Agraharam streets.

Hindus had left Agraharam many years ago as informed by some of the locals whom we spoke to.It is said that the Muslims demolished the Shiva temple here and built a mosque.

The views expressed in this forum are not in keeping with the ground reality.
No disrespect to others who are living in an imaginary world.

Sangom wrote this many years ago.
 
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kamu

Member
Agraharams in Tamil Nadu are increasingly turning Islamic at an alarming pace. Agraharams are centuries-old ancient traditional Brahmin settlements in villages. It consists of row houses flanking both sides of a road with its own Temple and all activities of the residents based on the Temple ecosystem. The Agraharam row houses, also known as Chaturvedimangalams are very well planned, spacious, and uniquely built structures to suit the Dharmic lifestyle of the Brahmanas.

Agraharams incorporated a way of life centred around temples and religion and was spread all over South India. When we toured Tanjore, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Karaikal districts, we were shocked by the scenes we saw in the Agraharams.

The temples in Agraharam now look like dilapidated halls. There are women wearing burqas and bearded men wearing skullcaps and Lungi populating the Agraharams today.

Agraharams in important cities like Sirkazhi, Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam, Nagore and Thiruvarur have become Islamic. In the Tanjore region, Agraharam at Chakrapalli near Ayyampettai on the Tanjore-Kumbakonam Highway has now been converted into Hajiyar Street and Qaide Millat Street.

Only the 1500 year old Chakravakeswarar Temple remains in the Agraharam. Non-Muslims are not be able to walk in these areas after 5 pm due to harassment and fear.

There are signs of huge agraharams in Rajagiri near the Chakra school. In other towns only temples remain in Agraharam. But here even the Temple has vanished. The signboards of Jinnah Street, Qaid e Millat Street and Hajiyar Street are shining brightly in the Agraharam streets.

Hindus had left Agraharam many years ago as informed by some of the locals whom we spoke to.It is said that the Muslims demolished the Shiva temple here and built a mosque.

The views expressed in this forum are not in keeping with the ground reality.
No disrespect to others who are living in an imaginary world.

Sangom wrote this many years ago.
what you say is quite true and is the reality on ground. How do you drive out the muslims who have bought all these houses systematically from the " lets go somewhere ese and make our living - we cannot be harassed by these people " brahmins who left decades ago ? It is a well known fact that one muslim will buy a house in an agraharam from an indigent old couple offering them more money than others - cut goats in front of their house, and leer at the young girls passing by - spit and generally dirty the front yard - and therefore force others also to consider moving out . slowly, it becomes Hajiyar street !!
 
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Tkudi

Gold Member
Gold Member
As far as my knowledge goes, no brahmins had sold any property , land or houses to Muslims directly. These properties were acquired by other caste Hindus in the villages, who had later sold to wealthy Muslims for a higher price. We had sold our land, houses etc to caste Hindu people in our village which till now have fortunately remained with them only.
BTW, the village Rajagiri, near Papanasam has no Agraharam left anymore. This village is mostly Muslim occupied and one can see huge mansions and bungalows owned by them with gulf money. Some Hindus who still live in the village are mostly on the periphery. Money has played a great part in changing the demography of many villages in the erstwhile Thanjavur district which was once the bastion of brahmins ! Time changes everything and will continue to change again ! Nothing is permanent as history has taught us.
 
Once upon a time , every village and town in Tamil Nadu had a jewel in the form of Agraharam ( brahmin street) usually around the main temples of the village or town. In 1950s,there were only 12 districts in Tamil Nadu ( then TN was part of Madras Presidency that had total of 28 districts) as against 38 now. Those were : Chinglept, Coimbatore, Nilgiris, North Arcot, Madras,Madurai, Ramanathapuram Salem, South Arcot, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Thiruchirapalli. Of these, Thanjavur and Thiruchirapalli were most important for Tamil Brahmins. Due to the benevolence of kings of Chola dynasty, Pallava, Pandya and Marathas who ruled these areas at different periods , number of Brahmin settlements came up as an adjunct to various temples built by these kings almost in every village under their rule. Large parcels of agricultural lands were donated to the temple and also to the Brahmins who were held at high esteem by the royalty. There were approximately 12000 odd villages in TN those days and each one of them had one or more agraharam where Brahmins led peaceful and pious life. Apart from being temple priests , Brahmins were also in the professions of school teachers and village karnams. Almost 90% of the school teachers at the primary level were Brahmins who considered the profession very noble and sacred. The villagers respected Brahmin community for their cultured and disciplined life . Karnam ( village accountant and records keeper) was another profession which was hereditary until 1977 ( MGR replaced it with Village Administrative Officers as a state cadre) was also dominated by Brahmin community. Temple priests, village school teachers, village karnams as their main source of livelihoods , the community and their agraharams prospered and flourished particularly in Chola desam ( Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt). It is said that Chola kings and queens built close to 1000 Shiva temples in their kingdom .
in 1967, with the advent of the Dravidian government ( with their anti- Brahmin and anti-God plank) in power, the decline of Brahmin community and deterioration of agraharams started. The decline was felt very strongly in Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt , the stronghold of Dravidian parties. Brahmin teachers lost their jobs and temples were not supported much. Slowly, the population started moving to nearby town, cities, outside the state or even abroad. Agraharam houses were abandoned or sold at distress prices to other communities. Many of these houses were bought by wealthy Muslim community indirectly from the Brahmins .In Mayavaram town , the famous Brahmin agraharams like Pattamangalam and Mahadana were converted to commercial premises owned by Muslims. Villages like Rajagiri, Ayyampettai, Pandaravadai, Papanasam which were once burstling with agraharams are now nearly Muslim villages. In Needur near Mayuram, the famous Shiva temple ( Somanathaswami temple) is surrounded on all sides by Muslim community occupying erstwhile agraharams. It is reported that Muslims prefer to reside in Brahmin occupied houses with the belief that no harm will come to them in these houses that have been sanctified and purified by pujas, prayers etc by Brahmins for years.
Yet, there are still some villages where agraharams have survived and occupied by Brahmin families. Udayalur, Thippirajapuram, ( near Kumbakonam) , Ganapathy Agraharam, Echangudi are some of the villages , I know of, where agraharams are still intact and breathing. Elders have returned to these villages to spend their last years in their places of birth. Many more such villages may be existing here and there , but 90% of agraharams have disappeared or in the process of extinction. Kerala government has declared agraharams as heritage sites giving full protection for their existence. It will be too much to expect such kind and graceful gesture from TN government.
Tamil Nadu agraharams can be rejuvenated , resurrected, reincarnated and restored only by the Non Resident Tamil Brahmins who live in various countries and financially strong. If each one of them decide to buy a house in a Agraharam of their choice, that is still existing , then original glory can be slowly restored over a period . With changing political scenario in the country , there will be better times for Tamil Brahmins in future. The NRI who buys an Agraharam house can let it out to the local priest at nominal rent so that the house is maintained properly. This way , the local Temple priest can also be helped . These priests do not have any income other than what devotees drop on the archanai plates.
In 1950, the total population of TN was about 3 crs of which Brahmins constituted 3% and now out of nearly 8 cr population , Brahmins may be just 1% or so. Brahmins today are financially better placed than 1970s thanks to the computer and digital world that opened up when other avenues were closed for them . So, I request the Brahmin NRIs to think seriously how they can help and restore our Agraharam heritage.
 
Once upon a time , every village and town in Tamil Nadu had a jewel in the form of Agraharam ( brahmin street) usually around the main temples of the village or town. In 1950s,there were only 12 districts in Tamil Nadu ( then TN was part of Madras Presidency that had total of 28 districts) as against 38 now. Those were : Chinglept, Coimbatore, Nilgiris, North Arcot, Madras,Madurai, Ramanathapuram Salem, South Arcot, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Thiruchirapalli. Of these, Thanjavur and Thiruchirapalli were most important for Tamil Brahmins. Due to the benevolence of kings of Chola dynasty, Pallava, Pandya and Marathas who ruled these areas at different periods , number of Brahmin settlements came up as an adjunct to various temples built by these kings almost in every village under their rule. Large parcels of agricultural lands were donated to the temple and also to the Brahmins who were held at high esteem by the royalty. There were approximately 12000 odd villages in TN those days and each one of them had one or more agraharam where Brahmins led peaceful and pious life. Apart from being temple priests , Brahmins were also in the professions of school teachers and village karnams. Almost 90% of the school teachers at the primary level were Brahmins who considered the profession very noble and sacred. The villagers respected Brahmin community for their cultured and disciplined life . Karnam ( village accountant and records keeper) was another profession which was hereditary until 1977 ( MGR replaced it with Village Administrative Officers as a state cadre) was also dominated by Brahmin community. Temple priests, village school teachers, village karnams as their main source of livelihoods , the community and their agraharams prospered and flourished particularly in Chola desam ( Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt). It is said that Chola kings and queens built close to 1000 Shiva temples in their kingdom .
in 1967, with the advent of the Dravidian government ( with their anti- Brahmin and anti-God plank) in power, the decline of Brahmin community and deterioration of agraharams started. The decline was felt very strongly in Thanjavur- Tiruchirapalli belt , the stronghold of Dravidian parties. Brahmin teachers lost their jobs and temples were not supported much. Slowly, the population started moving to nearby town, cities, outside the state or even abroad. Agraharam houses were abandoned or sold at distress prices to other communities. Many of these houses were bought by wealthy Muslim community indirectly from the Brahmins .In Mayavaram town , the famous Brahmin agraharams like Pattamangalam and Mahadana were converted to commercial premises owned by Muslims. Villages like Rajagiri, Ayyampettai, Pandaravadai, Papanasam which were once burstling with agraharams are now nearly Muslim villages. In Needur near Mayuram, the famous Shiva temple ( Somanathaswami temple) is surrounded on all sides by Muslim community occupying erstwhile agraharams. It is reported that Muslims prefer to reside in Brahmin occupied houses with the belief that no harm will come to them in these houses that have been sanctified and purified by pujas, prayers etc by Brahmins for years.
Yet, there are still some villages where agraharams have survived and occupied by Brahmin families. Udayalur, Thippirajapuram, ( near Kumbakonam) , Ganapathy Agraharam, Echangudi are some of the villages , I know of, where agraharams are still intact and breathing. Elders have returned to these villages to spend their last years in their places of birth. Many more such villages may be existing here and there , but 90% of agraharams have disappeared or in the process of extinction. Kerala government has declared agraharams as heritage sites giving full protection for their existence. It will be too much to expect such kind and graceful gesture from TN government.
Tamil Nadu agraharams can be rejuvenated , resurrected, reincarnated and restored only by the Non Resident Tamil Brahmins who live in various countries and financially strong. If each one of them decide to buy a house in a Agraharam of their choice, that is still existing , then original glory can be slowly restored over a period . With changing political scenario in the country , there will be better times for Tamil Brahmins in future. The NRI who buys an Agraharam house can let it out to the local priest at nominal rent so that the house is maintained properly. This way , the local Temple priest can also be helped . These priests do not have any income other than what devotees drop on the archanai plates.
In 1950, the total population of TN was about 3 crs of which Brahmins constituted 3% and now out of nearly 8 cr population , Brahmins may be just 1% or so. Brahmins today are financially better placed than 1970s thanks to the computer and digital world that opened up when other avenues were closed for them . So, I request the Brahmin NRIs to think seriously how they can help and restore our Agraharam heritage.
 

kamu

Member
Just a few days ago, a friend of mine who had ancestral property [ sold about a couple of years ago, but who still has close friends there ] in TIruchendurai agraharam in Jeeyapuram, about 11kms from Tiruchirappalli, gave a shocking news : the Waqf board has given intimation that the 1500 yr old Sivan koil there, along with all the lands in and around it, a total of nearly 350 to 400 acres of prime agricultural land and the houses of the agraharam belong to them, and the Registrar also confirmed it, and that no transactions can be made without their consent ! This came on national news ! - lots of discussions back and forth, and the RDO has now said that transactions can be done and this news is " not true " !!
One doesn't know what to believe in this day and time of what is happening in TN; the case is almost the same in Kerala also .
 
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