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The famous Kapaleeswarar temple at Mylapore has been hitting the headlines often after the DMK under MK Stalin assumed power in Tamil Nadu.

Within two months of coming to power, on August 5, HR and CE Minister PK Sekar Babu inaugurated Tamil archanai in Kapaleeswarar temple. The minister announced that Tamil archanai would be performed in 47 temples and Kapaleeswarar temple would be the first.

Ten days later, Chief Minister Stalin visited the same temple to implement the scheme to appoint archakas from all communities as priests. He handed over the appointment orders for 58 priests including 24 non-Brahmin priests at a function at the marriage hall of Kapaleeswarar temple.

The scheme of appointing priests from all communities was a dream of Dravidian movement’s founder EVR Periyar. This is one of the protests he announced before his death and former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi who persuaded him not to agitate tried to implement the scheme in 1974, without any success. Karunanidhi compared the failure to implement the scheme as a thorn in Periyar’s heart.

The place Stalin selected to fulfil the dream of the Dravidian movement was Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple. Speaking on the occasion, he said “The scheme is implemented to remove the thorn in Periyar’s heart and to fulfil the dream of Kalaignar (Karunanidhi).” He specifically mentioned the venue of the function while handing out the appointment orders.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin at the function to distribute appointment orders for non-Brahmin priests at Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple, Chennai

The DMK government had implemented its action to retrieve the properties of Hindu temples, from Kapaleeswarar temple. Before the Assembly elections, the BJP and other Hindutva outfits had questioned why the Hindu temples and their properties are under the control of the state government while the shrines of other religions are under their own control. After the DMK government rode to power, the Hindutva outfits have been demanding that the government should not interfere in matters related to Hindu religion. They were also accusing the DMK government of not doing anything to protect the properties of temples. As if answering the allegations, the DMK government had started the actions to restore the revenue of temples from Kapaleeswarar temple.

Minister Sekar Babu himself visited the temple to survey the temple land and the government found that the temple lost 40 per cent of its revenue as most of the tenants did not pay the lease amount or rent for the temple land.

There is a major link between Kapaleeswarar temple and Dravidian’s movement’s predecessor, the Justice party. When the founder of Justice Party, PT Thiyagaraya took part in the consecration ceremony, almost a hundred years ago, he was not allowed to get on to the  ceremony dais and sprinkle holy water,

The temple has a hoary history and ancient roots. It is a Saivite landmark. Today, it has become the focus of an avowedly rationalist DMK.

There is a major link between Kapaleeswarar temple and Dravidian’s movement’s predecessor, the Justice party. When the founder of Justice Party, PT Thiyagaraya took part in the consecration ceremony, almost a hundred years ago, he was not allowed to get on to the  ceremony dais and sprinkle holy water, though he had donated Rs. 10,000 for the ceremony. A Brahmin working under him was allowed to sprinkle the holy water.

A furious Thiagaraya immediately met another founder leader of the Justice Party TM Nair. The two leaders were not on speaking terms before the sudden meeting due to an argument in the Madras Corporation council about the management of temples.

Speaking at the corporation meeting, Nair, a council member had argued that temples must pay water tax since they earn a huge income. But, Thiyagaraya had opposed the collection of such taxes from temples in the same meeting.

In another instance, Nair had demanded that Triplicane Parathasarathy temple pond must be filled with sand since it had become a breeding ground of mosquitoes due to unclean water. Nair introduced a resolution to fill the pond and set up a park at the same place, to protect people’s health. Thiyagaraya argued that the pond should be renovated and was in the forefront of defeating the resolution in the corporation meeting. This led to difference of opinion between the two and they stopped talking to each other.

The humiliation of Thiyagaraya at the Kapaleeswarar temple consecration changed his heart and he buried the hatchet with Nair. The two leaders joined together to form the South Indian Liberal Federation on 20 November 1916 at Vepery in Chennai. They also published a newspaper called ‘Justice’ and the party also acquired its popular name Justice Party due to the newspaper. The Justice Party was converted into the Dravidar Kazhagam, the parent body of the DMK. So, Kapaleeswarar temple is connected to the origin of the Dravidian movement and the DMK which is an extension of the Justice Party is carrying out its key policies at Mylapore.


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