Chennai gets its own Golden Temple
S Saraswathi introduces readers to the beautiful Sri Venugopalaswamy Temple in Gopalapuram, Chennai.
Want to see a golden temple? Go to Amritsar.
This was your only option up until three years ago -- then a temple near Chennai had its entire tower covered with gold, notwithstanding the skyrocketing prices of the precious metal.
The Sri Venugopalaswamy Temple in Gopalapuram, Chennai celebrated its Ashta Bandhana Maha Kumbhabhishekam from July 1 to 5 last week in a very grand manner. This auspicious event started with the Sankalpa Puja on July 1, followed by the Ganapathi Homam and many other rituals, ending with the seventh Kala Puja and the Maha Kumbhabhishekam (consecration) on the 5th. The highlight of this event was the Golden Vimana for the presiding deity, Sri Venugopalaswamy, at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore. This is a first for a temple in Chennai District, say the proud committee members of the temple.
The temple has been completely renovated with granite flooring and new vimanas for all the deities. Beautiful pictures of Lord Krishna and Radha adorn the ceiling and walls. "All this was possible only with the contributions of the devotees and Mr C V Ravindranath, President of the Gopalapuram Hindu Religious Society," says committee member Ms Vasantha Parthasarthy.
Sri Venugopalaswamy was constructed in the year 1929, after the idol of the presiding deity Lord Venugopalaswamy was unearthed in 1917 near a Shiva temple in Thiruthuraipoondi village in Tamilnadu. The idol was then brought to Gopalapuram, with due Government permissions and consecrated at its present location. "The presiding deity, Lord Venugopalaswamy is resplendent with a cow behind him and chathur bhujams (four arms) -- two arms playing the flute producing the Venu Gaanam and two hands blessing the devotees with Shanku and Chakram. This is a unique feature not generally found in other temples," say the committee members.
Thursday, July 5 saw huge crowds of devotees as early as 6 in the morning to witness the auspicious celebration. There were long queues of people stretching across two streets waiting to have darshan of the Lord and to get a glimpse of the golden vimana. The elaborate arrangements for the occasion were made by the Gopalapuram Hindu Religious Society, devotees and volunteers. The Maha Kumbhabhishekam was presided over by Sri Senapathi Sharma of Kumbakonam, with the blessings of Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya Swami of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. Many dignitaries and political leaders attended the function. Annadanam was provided for the devotees on all the five days.
Photographs: S Saraswathi
'It has become popular as the 'Visa-Granting Deity''
This temple is not devoted to any particular deity. "Vinaayagar, Murugan with Valli and Deivayanai, Ramar with Seetha, Lakshman and Hanuman, Aadhi Sankaracharya are all housed in the main Prakaaram," says Ms Vasantha. The temple also has separate sannidhanams for Kamakshi Amman and Ekambareswarar -- with Dhakshinamurthy and Durgai, Ayyappan, Navagrahas, and Aanjaneyar. Also at the back of the Temple is a peepal tree and a Arasamaram Pillayar.
The major celebration at the temple is Janmashtami, which is celebrated for one month with daily Alangaram for Lord Sri Krishna. During this time the temple attracts a huge crowd in the evening and is open till midnight to witness the birth of Krishna. People from all over the city come to witness this special occasion. Cultural programmes, musicial concerts, Radha Kalyanam etc are also organised during this month. The other major attraction at the temple is the Marghazhi festival during the Tamil month of Marghazhi, when the temple functions from 3 am in the morning. The Lord is beautifully decorated throughout this month in his various avatars and forms.
Ms. Vasantha talks of the temple in the 1970s: "It was just a small temple for Lord Krishna with only a handful of local devotees coming in to offer their prayers. And now almost four decades later, this 83-year-old temple has grown in structure and popularity. Hundreds of devotees visit the temple everyday. The temple is now attracting an ever-increasing number of youngsters as it has become popular as the 'Visa-Granting Deity'. People believe that their prayers of getting a visa are fulfilled when they pray at this temple," she says. The devotees come together to chant Lalitha Sahasranamam and Vishnu Sahasranama regularly. "We also conduct sloka classes and organise narayaneeyam, which is very popular and is attended by devotees from all over Chennai," she adds.
The committee members of the Gopalapuram Hindu Religious Society feel very blessed to have this beautiful temple in their midst. "We at Gopalapuram are very fortunate to have the Kettathum Kodukkum Krishna (Granter of all Wishes), always with us...he has been showering his blessings on all those who seek him."
Photographs: S Saraswathi