Hindu heritage temples and water tanks - facing threats

The Rajagopalaswamy temple,Mannargudi and water tank..www.thehindu.com
The Rajagopalaswamy temple,Mannargudi,Tamil Nadu India.www.thehindu.com
Temple tanks are huge wells or reservoirs and form  part of Hindu temples in many parts of India, in particular, S. India and are located near or in the vicinity of temples as per Vastu temple  Sastras. Variously called pushkarini, thirtha, kalyani, commonly kovil kulam (in Tamil Nadu), kunda, sarovara, etc based on regions, they play an integral part of the  local community, besides serving the temple. 

Waters are used for temple rituals, pujas, consecration and for annual float festivals, if the tanks  are large enough. The water in the temple tank is believed to be  sacred water from the river Ganges and, in famous temples, they are well protected from public bathing, etc. Devotees are expected to cleanse their feet and hands before entering the temple, a place of sanctity and reverence . Some ''Prarthana sthalams'' where the devotees are requested to do 'Parihara' (making amends), devotees are allowed to bathe.
Madurai Mariamman Teppakulam,Tamil Nadu, India. globalvisiontours.com
There are different kinds of water tanks. In the northern part of India, stepped water tanks are common in states like Rajasthan with ornamented geometrically spectacular, well lined steps  going down far below the water table so that water will be available for the people in the summer and for the temple rituals. Further, such step tanks at some places have resting areas at lower levels, because of depth  near the bottom of the tank, it is cool and it prevents excess evaporation of  available water in the hot season. They are called  ''Vav'' in west India and a ''Baoli'' in north India.
'Kalyani water tanks'' are common in some  regions near the Hindu temples. These are also stepped water tanks for bathing and temple rituals.

Since ancient times, the design of water storage has been important in Indian temple architecture, especially in western India where dry and monsoon seasons alternate. Temple tank design became an art form in itself. example:  Stepped tank  at the ruins of Vijayanagara, the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, surrounding the modern town of Hampi, Karnataka. Such stepped wells were either built by  rulers  or noble people of the areas.

The  water is fed into the tanks via  aqua ducts from the nearest water sources, mostly rivers  or closer to the artesian wells as in the case of tanks in places like Tiruvarur or Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu.

Nowadays health conscious men and women go for an evening walk  or stroll on the pathways around the huge water tanks. The tedium of office work, etc just goes away while walking, with the cool and soothing wind blowing across the sheet of water in the tank.

The Rajagopalaswamy temple is an important Vaishnavite shrine (one of Divya desam shetrams) located in the town of Mannargudi,TN  India, amids lush green, paddy fields  with swaths of paths (embankment or vaarapu) for the movement of workers on either side of the narrow undulating road. The coconut groves in patches scattered  here and there, part dry irrigation ponds etc  reflect  quiet rural ambiance, typical of delta areas. It is close to Thiruvarur  45 to 50-minute drive from here.

The Vishnu temple complex of Mannargudi, comprising seven prakarams (outer courtyard), 16 gopurams, 24 shrines, seven mandapams (halls) and nine sacred theerthams   was built by Kulothunga Chola I and later, renovated by  other Cholas and the Thanjavur Nayaks.

The ''Haridra Nadhi tank'' is  located  about a kilometer away from the main temple. Lots of people are not aware that this huge temple water tank covering 23 acres, is the second largest temple tank in the country; first being ''Kamalalayam tank'' of Tiruvarur temple and the third largest temple tank being  Mariamman Teppakulam, 
Madurai city, covering 16 acres of land in the busy part of the city. This tank was excavated by the then ruler Thrumalai Nayak  as he needed the soil to make special quality bricks for the construction of huge Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal - a palatial palace (later used by the British) with giant pillars. The vast pit - excavation became a water tank for drinking purpose, etc in those days. 

Until several years ago, the Mannargudi  temple tank was not properly maintained. Later after receiving complaints from the public, the tank embankments were repaired and fresh water from other sources was pumped into the tank. 

The latest threats to Mannargudi and other places in
the Cauvery delta districts are from the multinational oil companies who have a plan to drill gas wells to tap vast methane gas deposits trapped in the largest lignite coal
Temple water tank Sri Krishna temple,Udipi,Karnataka.www.karnataka. com
Stepped water  tank.www.pinterest.com
Annamalaiyar temple, Thiruvannamalai, TN, India.arunachalagrace.blogspot.co
formations discovered  several years ago. At selected places,  the drilling programs include removal of water from the coal seam formations and horizontal drilling up to the target areas.

Environmentalists  are concerned about the impact on the oldest paddy fields in the world - dating back to first century - existing aquifers in theses areas where already thousands  of bore wells are sunk for irrigation purposes and the impending  threats to local rural population, future agriculture, etc because of dangerous water- intensive fracking operations to be carried by oil companies for enhanced gas recovery.  As part of gas exploration from coal beds, a host of Cancer causing chemicals are mixed with sand and water for fracking operations of target areas  for enhanced recovery and this will positively  contaminate the underground water resources, besides turning the famous delta land  into a desert area.

The delta districts are dotted with several hundred historical and heritage Hindu temples  dating  as far back as 9th and 10 th centuries and beyond.  On account of excess  ground  water depletion, these monuments  of great antiquity and the temple tanks may face severe damage in the near future, not to speak of the rich fertile delta becoming as dry as the Mojave desert of California, USA.