Palar row has triggered concerns that A.P. may stake claim to the Kanakanatchiamman temple
An uneasy calm prevails at Perumpallam in Chittoor district where the Andhra Pradesh government has taken up work to increase the height of a check dam constructed across the Palar.
While villagers on the Tamil Nadu border are apprehensive that their only source of water would diminish in the coming years, there is another cause for worry. They fear losing their rights over a temple in the locality to the AP government.
Kanakanatchiamman temple, which is located at the centre of the Palar here, is over 100 years old and receives devotees mostly from various parts of the Vellore district and also from Andhra Pradesh. Though the temple is located on AP land, it is being administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Tamil Nadu government, according to officials.
“The temple is under the Tamil Nadu HR and CE’s administration since 1972. We have been collecting toll for parking vehicles for nearly 15 years. But last week, the AP government conducted an auction for the toll collection without intimating us and has started collecting fee from devotees,” an officer said. He noted that the AP government had issued such notices on earlier occasions too, but this was the first time that they held the auction.
It is this auction by the Kangundi panchayat that has left villagers shocked, as they feel that the AP government is staking claim to the temple. A similar problem had surfaced in 2009.
Villagers of three panchayats in Vellore – Pullur, Thimmampet and Avarankuppam – have been managing the temple all these years. “In fact, in 1979, residents of nearly 25 villages had pooled in money ranging from Re. one to Rs. 100 to construct the sanctum sanctorum. There are records to prove this,” said A. C. Dinakaran, panchayat president, Avarankuppam.
S. Palani, the temple’s priest, said, “My grandfather was the priest, and this was handed down to my father, and now to me. We have been maintaining the temple for so many years, how can we let go of it,” he asked.
Devotees cross the Palar riverbed to reach the temple, while they also walk on the check dam that leads to a staircase for the temple.
Sixty-two-year-old N.D. Anbukalanjiyam, a resident of Natrampalli, has been visiting the temple for the last 40 years. “Earlier, the check dam’s height was much lower and the width too was less. The temple should not be pulled into any border dispute. There should be no hindrance to devotees to visit the temple,” he said.
S. Govindaraj, a mason, recalled his long association with the temple. “It was 13 years ago that we constructed the mandapam. The temple was earlier located in a small structure. Before this, the temple was housed in ‘manjam pul’ hut. We constructed the mandapam on an area measuring 2,400 square feet,” he said.
The HR&CE officer said a report has been sent to senior officials of the department.
We constructed the ‘mandapam.’ Records show the temple belongs to us.”