Life is a dream
as published in Deccan Chronicle Newspaper dated July 25th, 2011
An unseemly con troversy is brewing at the famous Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai, with officials who manage the shrine being accused of shunning two statues of deities that they reportedly claim have been ‘defiled’ by the worship of trainee priests of a lower caste.
Former students of the Archakar Training School, set up in the temple by the former DMK government to train people of all castes to be priests, say the temple officials do not allow puja to be performed to the icons of Saraswathi near Bairavar Sannithi and Vinayagar at Nandavanam adjacent to the Ammani Amman Gopuram of the temple after the scheme to train pujaris ended in 2007.
The one-year course for archakars was offered by the HR and CE department under the former DMK government’s Anaivarum Archakar Aagalam scheme.
Outraged at the temple administration for discriminating between statues of deities within the temple premises, several of the 40 students who took the archarkar course have sought the intervention of the district administration to ensure that puja is performed for the neglected icons.
“The HR and CE department erected the statue of Goddess Saraswathi well before the one-year course started in the temple,” said Ranganathan, one of the students of the course. “The statue was erected adhering to ‘agamas’ and we performed pujas to the statue in 2007-2008.” “After we completed the course, priests and temple authorities refused to continue the pujas, stating that the deities were ‘theetu’ (defiled) and are not fit for worship,” said K. Venkatesan, another former student and resident of Kangeyanur Village in Villupuram.
Denying the claims, a temple official said, “The statues were erected just before the archakar course was started here. Only the Arunachaleswarar Temple has statues of deities to practice pujas by the students among the six shrines where the course was launched.” “Besides, the statues have not been erected as per the agama veethi (astapanthana marunthu),” he added. “The temple priests perform puja to the statues on special occasions. A few students of the school are trying to create problems by accusing us of being biased on caste and community lines.”