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Re: Painted gopurams...

From: P.B. Anand (
Date: Mon Aug 23 1999 - 10:16:24 PDT

Hi Mani,

Of course I know the spirit in which your earlier 
comments on coloured gopurams were made.  As I mentioned, 
in my note, I feel these are timely and relevant. I only 
wanted to caution that there is  the danger of jumping to 
conclusions. Gopurams are more visible and so we all 
perceive and react. The more important point concerns 
temple administration and accountability and the need for 
maintaining principles according to agamas without 
introducing changes to suit one's whims. The people who 
are painting the gopurams can turn back and say that 

'It is all too easy for you to sit comfortably and make 
those comments. What right have you to give your views ? 
Unga thatha va inda gopuram kattinar? '

Also, most of the temples are now administered by the 
government and their control is part of political 
process. (I was reading the bio-data of several of the 
members of parliament of 12th Lok sabha and many of them 
list their temple chairmanship under the heading 'posts 
held'). In political science discussions (what little I 
am aware of)it is discussed as a symbol of ascendency of 
lower castes to hold such power over what 
originally were considered to be brahminical 
institutions. For instance, in Kanchi garuda sevai, when 
goshti consisted of doyens such as PBA swamy, the sadari 
used to be given to them first before being given to the 
temple administrator. I was told that nowadays the temple 
administrator and district police superintendent (or IG 
if he attends it) gets these honours before anyone else. 

Multi-coloured painting may thus be a symbolic view of 
such ascendency - people who controlled mari amman 
temples yesterday do control parthasarathy and other 
temples today. In a way we ourselves (not brahmins but 
those who take interest in our sampradayam) are to blame. 
Temples have to be taken over by the government because - 
lets face it - we did not administer them any better. The 
feud over the namam of temple elephant going up to 
Supreme Court is just an example. Also failure to 
understand the need for creating wider base of stake 
holders, sharing responsibilities with them, treating it 
as a trusteeship of  a social good rather than the 
ownership of a private good etc.,  have created many 
problems. If we want to know how well (or how absurdly) a 
group of srivaishnavas administer themselves - just wait 
at the main entrance of Tirumalai for the sattumurai : 
fights break out, people sneak in without standing in the 
queue, recommendations are brought in, once inside the 
sanctum sanctorum, people become an embodiment of 
selfishness - no one cares about blocking others' view so 
long as they can get a good view of the Lord. 

P.B. Anand