The car stopped abruptly in front of the gate. From the front seat, I was able to see history unfold in the form of a 9th century temple. The Govindaraja Swami temple is located on the banks of a small lake called Alli Kulam in Therazhundhur. The place is so serene and calm that if you don’t look up, you wouldn’t notice human dwellings in the region.
The temple is definitely old. The main deities are made of stucco. The temple has a shrine for Manavaala Maamuni, the thenkalai saint. The priest, a computer science graduate who chose to serve the Lord rather than serve the MNC masters in the US, tells me that the temple was originally owned by his family and was later taken over by the government. Now that the temple is under HR&CE, any development needs to be endorsed by the powers that be at the government offices.
Fifty years ago the madappalli-the temple kitchen used to prepare one bag of rice per day as offering to the Lord and prasad to the visitors and devotees. Currently the temple’s annual income is 10 bags of rice. And the priest is paid Rs 40 per month as salary. This priest has chosen not to receive the salary as he needs to pay a larger cheque clearing fee to cash the cheque.
The temple, for sure, had seen better times. The kitchen was a large one then as it had to cater to thronging devotees. With dwindling bhakthas and income, the kitchen also has shrunk in size pointing to a sign of times. With people immersed in T.V. serials, who has the time to visit these historical shrines for solace?
The history of the temple, as elucidated by the priest Mr.Gosakan, is different from the one that is popularly known. The way the Thirumangai Azwar pasuram is represented to include Lord Govindaraja and Lord Ranganatha into the Divyadesa deities, is not endorsed by the many that I spoke to later. This, they say, is an attempt to include the temples into the more popular history of Lord Amaruviappan.
In any case, Lord Govindaraja is as enchanting as Lord Amaruviappan. Better to visit the temple during the day and inhale some history.
Related links on Therazhundhur: