Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why this Kolaveri?

OK, with everybody on the Kolaveri bandwagon, can I be far behind? The flop song, the soup song, is so apt for the situation I venture to describe.

Some time ago, I was taking a few friends to the Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur - A UNESCO World Heritage Site where the millennium celebrations were conducted with such pomp and splendour in September 2010 by the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. It was close to 1 pm and the main shrines were closed. But there was still so much to see, in the huge, probably largest temple in India. So we slowly moved around ,shielding our eyes against the midday sun. My friends were well informed about the temple and were able to identify the goshta devathas very easily. 

My attention, however, was captured by these, which resulted in the title for this post. Take a look!

What do you see here?
A beautiful Dhakshinamoorthy with a couple of sages worshipping at his feet. Let us just turn the angle of this picture. Now look- what you can see?
The walls on either side of the shrine are vandalised mercilessly. A Compass or key ha been used to make deep impressions of names of visitors who  for some crazy reason wanted to leave behind their names here. Take a close up look of how bad it is!
Whoever N.Raji was, he or she has not done himself/ herself or the temple a favour :( See how deep the cuts into the stone are!
Can you see the PMC carved into stone? Imagine how much of time and effort would have gone into this brutal vandalism! Well this is not all! Several other gods and goddesses are sitting amidst graffiti. It almost looked to me as if there were in a middle of a garbage bin. I am sorry if this hurts any one's sentiments, but honestly, when the sanctum sanctorum or the surrounding areas of where God resides, is damaged like this,
I do not know what else to say!

Here is one Shivalingam with graffiti as his backdrop! But he is not alone!
Here is another - equally if not more affected!
Well, here are Saptha Lingas with an entire wallpaper and arch of graffiti around them!
No one is spared - complete equality when it comes to graffiti! Do you want to take a closer look?
"The writing's up on the wall" - right up to the ceiling and all along the " Thiruchutru Maaligai" so thoughtfully built by Rajaraja's Senathipathi Krishnan Raman and decorated by King Sarfoji by installing 108 lingams and covering the walls with exquisite paintings. So are you wondering what happened to the paintings?
Philip and Mumtaj are part of this unique painting which possibly shows the Crane that prayed at the Potraamarai Kulam at Madurai ( I am guessing it is that part of Thiruvilaiyaadal Puranam).

Can Kennedy and Daisy be far behind? They too have made sure their names are part of another unique painting.
Even a water drum has not been spared! What is the sanctity or everlasting value of having your name on a water drum? Beats me!

Okay, by now, I can hear some of you murmuring, what is point in talking about this or documenting this? Why cant some action be taken? Good question. Tried to do that too. Hear me out fully.

Some days ago, a friend of mine had shared a picture of a painting taken at a temple.

I had shared it on my face book wall and it attracted a lot of feedback. In fact, one of my friends from a conservation NGO, offered to clean up and restore the painting if necessary approvals were obtained. So totally enthused by this, I set off to the temple. Reached there at 8.30 in the morning and was told that the priest only came at 6.30 to perform pooja and after that he came only when called or if there was a group of tourists through a known travel agency visiting! The temple however was open, and there were a couple of senior citizens resting there. I could not find the painting anywhere.

Feeling bored after waiting for close to an hour, with no sign of the priest, I picked up a conversation with the people there. They said that the painting was inside a mandapam which was opened only on request, when the priest was available. One lady said that the original painting had been totally damaged, and the new painting had been done about sixty years ago. But that was also peeling off (probably due to use of acrylic colours?) She mentioned that the mandapam was permanently closed now to prevent school children from scribbling on the wall. She  said the temple was thinking of whitewashing the mandapam which she too thought was the best solution since the temple did not have the funds to either restore or subsequently maintain the painting. She did not seem to have the contact details of any officer and I could not stay longer due to other commitments. 

So what is the issue and what is the solution? One solution suggested by Makemytrip's is Amar Prem - a Virtual site where you can inscribe your names on virtual monuments and take printouts. But do we really have to promote vandalism in any form?

To me it seems like a collective behavioural change is urgently required at both ends - responsible users of the temple, responsible office bearers ably supported by a responsible civil society and government. I have just documented what I saw, and felt! Thoughts, suggestions and solutions welcome!


  1. Serious monitoring, severe punishments & fines for the cuprits are the only solutions to this problem. It is only people get kicked in the teeth they will learn.

  2. why people are obsessed with all these..

    one should try to preserve the beauty and decorum of the temples of India,,

    lot of foriegners come to india to visit Indian Temples

  3. Thoughts - Its sad to the level people can go low. First of all Graffiti in itself is such an atrotious act and in a temple the impact multiplies....
    Suggestion and Solutions - None.
    However its nice to see your effort in the direction of restoration.
    All the best.

  4. it saddens me everytime i visit these monuments of our heritage..

  5. I hate to see this. I do not what sadistic pleasure we gain by doing this. What hurts more is this mostly done by the so called "educated class".

  6. I too have seen such scribblings in almost every other temple and fail to understand why people resort to such activities..even if we cannt keep our temples clean atleast we shouldnt be a part of vandalising it..The pic towards the end looks like Woraiyur temple in Trichy and invariably when I go back and see a few pictures of temples that I have taken..such unwanted scribblings too are a part of it

  7. Whoever vandalizing the temple/temple properties will be forced to take a birth and will have to clean their artistic(???) offerings from the same temple in one or other away.

  8. Basically we are selfish. In those scribbles we seek immortality in our own minnow way. We never stop to think how we are destroying our heritage in our lust for everlasting-ness. Its sad to see beautiful monuments being defaced by such ugly and tasteless graffiti.

  9. It is indeed a shame that in a country that boasts of such religious and architectural marvels we also have such mindless vandals who can't think beyond their own immortality (at least as they perceive it).

  10. You wont own the property if you carve your name on it. Anyways, people should pay respect to our heritage...

  11. The same happens to every other civilization and then the ruin.sad!

  12. Hi. Zephyr directed me to your blog here. I strongly agree with your sentiments having seen the same thing at other monuments. It is a matter of national shame that Indians instead of being proud of the heritage they are privileged to have are desecrating them.Do check out my post on this same issue at my blog

  13. This is saddening indeed... What pleasure these people derive by doing all of this is known best to them but are sure unaware of the hurt that they inflict on so many other faithfuls like all of us!

  14. its really disgusting to see that we the Indians who always seems to be proud, arrogant and boasting about our culture cares the least! I think its important to stop and humiliate such people on the spot, call the Police and lock them behind bars for couple of months !!

  15. Vandalism is universal as far as our country is concerned.(I have not been to other countries.It can't be so bad anywhere! I guess.)You find graffiti everywhere;beit our heritage temples,historic monuments,govt buildings some of which are 100's of years old(no mean feat this)even not so old temples,inside public transport-buses,trains, name it we have it;if they can't have their names carved on them they leave their marks behind by tearing the seat covers in buses,chipping the paint off the handles or ceilings,roofs,pasting posters of insignificant events and ads and people
    We have rules and authorities ( the latter are mostly busy with their other responsibilities to help you help them!!)to check and authorize and regulate any reformatory activity like the author of this blog undertook,but for acts of vandalism our authorities can only be helpless passive spectators!!!
    We see the consequence of this inertia everywhere right from hundres of years old heritage sites to newly built sites and and modes of transport.

  16. Vandalism in all forms are a great bane, i hope people realise that they should not leave behind an imprint associated with a monument. Let us learn from the artisans who have carved monuments or paintings have never in general have left their signatures.

  17. I am now shaking with Kolaveri as I type out my response after reading you fantastic post ...

  18. DR.M.GOVARDHANA SINGHDecember 30, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    yes it is sorry to see all these unwanted writings on the wall. our people shoud realise our culture and heritage seriously. let us hope our people will change soon.

  19. This is really appalling. I can't really understand what sick pleasure people get by doing graffiti. Its really saddening to see the sight of our heritage monuments being destroyed in this way. We are all responsible for this apathy. We definitely need proper security and monitoring in these heritage sites and old temples. Most of all our thinking should change, only then this menace can be curbed.

    Thank you Ma'm for bringing this issue up and at least trying something from your side to correct it to an extent. :)

  20. It's too bad that dieties are defamed like this. Onnoda kolaveri ya use panni ippidi akramam senjavangala kola pannu, kola pannu, kola pannu di! :-)

  21. Very well handled the sensitive topic.. I am with the idea of having virtual monuments for those crazy people who feel carving out their names is the only way to leave behind their imprint.

  22. we people will never learn to respect and preserve our heritage!


  23. It amazes me that people work so hard to do this disgraceful act,after all it is not easy to carve on a stone.Tell them to sweep the precincts & see them run.Such people will put in ten-fold labor to
    commit a dastardly act.Very sad.

  24. OMG!
    I go to the Tanjavur temple once in six months and Ive never noticed the graffiti.

    :O Can't funds be raised to restore the old painting?

  25. No, please dont blame our people we are miss guided traditionalist. Just few days back i went to the new golden temple in vellore. For no reason, people where throwing coins into water fountain, there where no signs telling them the significance of the artificial fountain. But, the presence of some coins in the water and no restrictions was enough for our people to try to get the gods attention. People need rules or what one does becomes the norm, like writing their names on their wall, why blame them its our ancestors desire to write on walls that gave us lot of info :). Just need some strict rules.
    Nice article and concern.

  26. ரொம்ப அழகா மற்றும் நல்ல சிந்தனை கொண்ட பதிப்பு... இது எல்லா இடத்திலும் நடற்கிறது. இதை தடுக்க வேண்டும்...

  27. This is just shameful. Neglect and vandalism at its worst.

  28. its really shameful that some thoughtless and stupid people are ruining the heritage and monuments of India. :(
    anyways, this is my first time here and your blog's amazing :) and lemme tell you my mom is having immense fun here too!! :)

  29. Even tough the government is trying its best to educate people, but some don't seems to listen at all.

    We need to have more tough laws to curtail these kind of things

  30. You have rightly pointed how we Indians inscribe name in such places. It seems so pathetic..and disgusting..As if by inscribing their name they are doing a great act.
    Just a doubt - Isn't Kolaveri a song sung when guy is ditched by the girl?

  31. @bemoneyaware, Kolaveri means Killer Rage and the word has been used in a song to describe the situation above :)

  32. @HappyGoLucky, the temple has enough resources from various governmental, nongovernmental and hundi sources. However, I think it is lack of security and a general attitude of callousness that has resulted in this state

  33. Its seriously Kolaveri..!!

  34. Thanks everyone for your valuable inputs

    1. Dear MS Priya,
      I have visited lots of such remote temples in the south,I personally feel most of the grafitti are only visiting cards left by local school children to remind the deity to pass them in their exams,In some of the temples u can also see Hall Ticket nos being written too,These are ignorant children who do not know the value of these monuments ,The best way to dissuade most of these would be to put up a notice in the temple entrance to say" SPECIAL PUJAS HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE DEITY TO ENSURE THOSE WRITING GRAFFITI WILL NOT HAVE THEIR WISH FULFILLED". I am sure this notice will bring down this nuisance to a great extent.
      Regards and best wishes.
      K.Vasudevan Erode.

  35. beautiful pics showing the corrupt and uneducated methods of people.
    Happy new year

  36. so true.... we have seen this too at many temples and monuments and it is really an irritating sight..... the complete lack of interest and respect for our ancestors' efforts is what gets to me...

  37. so bad! they haven't left any place!

  38. Dear Ms. Priya , I came to know about your blog on The Hindu NXg supplement and read it. It is amazing, wonderful and just the thing I have been looking for. Could you send me your e-mail address? I need to request you to help me locate a very less known(or even unknown) temple in recent days. I am afraid I will have to give a bit of explanation regarding this. My late father-in-law was a Vadakalai Iyengar. His kula deivam (family diety) was a temple near Adhanakottai in Pudukottai district. I need to locate this. Before this let me tell me he expired before my marriage I haven't even talked to him. All this was recounted by my mother-in-law to me after marriage several times. Even she has not seen this temple since my father-in-law left his native Adhanakottai and came to Chennai to work in his teens.Further my in-laws had a love marriage and my m-in-law is from the Chettiar community so there was no chance of her being accepted as daughter-in-law in the orthodox Iyengar commununity. Thus she could not have been taken to the kula deivam temple or told about it as it would been done to a bride of the same community.

    Anyways my m-in-law tells me that she has heard my father-in-law tell her several times that his kula deivam in a very remote place near Adhanakottai and the deity is a Kamakshi amman which is very small and in a sitting position like Aiyappan (Kuthukal). I humble request you to let me know if you come across such a deity or temple. I have long wondered about it. I wish to visit it at least once in my time if it exists. I have a belief (that was prevalant in my maternal home) that the kula deivam should be worshipped regularly. Since my father-in-law had left his place and did not wish to contact his family regarding this, he worshipped the Mangadu Kamakshi Amman instead fervently.

  39. Dear Ms Vaishno Devi
    I have not come across the temple you are referring to yet, however, I will check out with my other learned friends and let you know. My email id is


  40. This unwanted Scribbling must be stopped in Holy Places. Nice U have highlighted it here.Interesting info otherwise.

  41. This only show our disregard towards our own property/natural resources . We are not only irresponsible , but we are insensitive also .