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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Corrupt practices at the ticketing system of Azhagar temple near Madurai

The ancient temples of Tamil Nadu which form a part of our cultural heritage have been subjected to corruption and ignorance, making them lose their splendor ever since their administration was taken over by the secular government. The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE), which is the organization formed by the secular government to maintain temples, has severely failed in maintaining proper religious practices and transparency in administration. This can be seen from several complaints and issues which have arisen in temples across the state. The recent temple to join this large list of complaints over mismanagement is the famous Azahagar temple at Thirumaliruncholai near Madurai.

Azhagar temple is famous for the Chitra Pournami festival during which the Lord comes to the city of Madurai from his abode in the forest situated a few kilometers away from the city. The Chitra Pournami festival, which is peculiar to Tamils, is the largest annual festival in the country. While the political ideology of Dravidian parties which have been holding the ruling power of the state since 1967 is largely based on Tamil pride, a festival peculiar to Tamils is not observed with a state holiday, while foreign festivals like Easter, Ramzan etc. have seen Dravidian leaders celebrating them with respective communities. This raises the question over the presence of such anti-Hindu politicians in the administration of the temples – hurting the freedom of religious practices for the Hindus.

Chitra Pournami festival; Source: http://www.holydham.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Kallaalagar-Temple-21.jpg

Thirumaliruncholai Azhagar temple is one of the 108 divya desams (Vishnu kshetras) situated in the middle of the forest, a few kilometers away from the city of Madurai. A pool called Nupuragangai situated at a mountain near the temple holds an important place in the rituals of the temple, and devotees visiting the temple have a bath at this sacred falls. A news item appearing in Tamil daily dated 25 april 2017, has stated the corrupt practices of HR&CE officials which are occurring at this sacred falls.

The temple authorities operate a bus service from the temple to the falls for the devotees. While the ticket for this travel costs Rs. 10/- for each person, the officials providing the tickets give a single ticket for each family taking a ride. This has resulted in these officials showing the ticket count as one person to the temple authorities instead of one family, thus taking the extra amount as their own. This same practice is also occurring at the Nupuragangai falls where devotees have to get a ticket of Rs. 15/- to have a bath at this sacred pool. This has resulted in loss of thousands of rupees every day for the temple.

Azhagar temple, Madurai

The negligence of the inspectors appointed to supervise the ticketing system is also said to be one of the reasons for this corrupt practice of the temple officials. While the temple authorities have promised that they will be taking strict action against the officials if found guilty, the presence of people less devoted to the gods in the management activities of the temple has resulted in such corrupt practices in the administration.

(Feature image from https://alagarkovil.org/)

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