Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple, TN - HR & CE's illegal Shopping Mall project must be stopped!!

shopping mall in a temple site, Tiruvannamalai, TN

shopping mall in a temple site, Tiruvannamalai, TN

In the Legislative Assembly on April 19, 2023, the Minister for HR and CE, Sekar Babu,  during discussion (on grant for the fiscal year 2023-2024) made a stunning  announcement related to “Notification No:223.” This notification outlined plans for constructing shops at an estimated cost of Rs 5.99 crores in the area in front of the Rajagopuram (facing east direction) of the  the  Arunachaleswarar Temple,Tiruvannamalai town.

This announcement by a responsible minister without any public opinion or any referendum on the matter  caused widespread  rage and anger among devotees of Tamil Nadu. People are already sore over big AC rooms built by HR & CE  on the temple premises  for the senior officials to stay, apart  provided expensive cars for them . This is the case of many temples across Tamil Nadu.   That HR and CE department has granted administrative permission for the construction of shops on a section of land owned by Arunachaleswarar Temple, situated in front of East Gopuram has become a matter of public debate. 

T R Ramesh, a devout Hindu activist and legal expert who takes keen interest in matters related to the abuse of temple lands controlled by the TN government,  recently moved  the Madras High Court and fixed urgent hearing to stop ‘illegal’ construction work right now before the  Raja Gopuram of Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple by the  HR & CE Department.

Such an unethical and arbitrary decision taken by the  TN government has not only affected the heritage and sanctity of the temple, but also the sentiments of lakhs of devout Hindus. It is an obnoxious assault on the culture and  tradition of the Hindu faith. It is a big blot on the ruling ministry to taper with historical temples in the name of restoration, revenue improvement, etc. In the past decade or so, the TN government under the ruling party, never took action on the erring  corrupt HR & CE officials with respect to theft of antique idols or gold jewelry or illegal construction or restoration taken  up by them on the temple land against the long-held tradition  of the temple. They also fail to note how the heritage sites and temple norms are tarnished by them. 

Car park in front of Temple main

Construction activity to build shops close to Tiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar temple raises concerns among the local people.  HR & CE is converting many temples halls into bazaars and they allow the operation of shops close to the temple gates/ gopurams for reasons of monetary gains; corrupt officials take a cut in the revenue on the sides. 

  Devastating  fire  mishap took place  in December 2013  close to the main Raja Gopuram  entrance  at this temple; fire broke out in a metal shop on Sannadhi street endangering the heritage site and the lives of many devotees coming to the temple. 

Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai  fire accident 2018

Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai  fire accident 2018

 Above images: Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, TN  Feb. 2018:   A major fire accident took place in the 400-year-old Veera Vasantharayar Mandapam, a hall in the temple’s East Wing. The 7,000 sq ft mandapam,  housed more than 100 shops selling everything from puja items,etc. Parts of the hall’s roof and a few intricately-carved pillars  collapsed, reported The Hindu. There were no casualties.............

Because of HR & CE 's irresponsible  temple administration in running a bazaar in a holy place, a major fire broke out at  Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple complex  on 2nd February, 2018. More than 30 shops were gutted in the fire. The fire officials say that the fire started at a toy shop inside a big mandap / hall near the east tower of the temple around 10 pm. Many ornate stone pillars and part of the hall were  heavily damaged beyond restoration. It impacted the heritage aspects of a fascinating temple in  India. Mind you the HR & CE allowed about 300 shops on the temple premises. 

Yet another fire broke out at a private plastic shop near Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple in Madurai city in July 2023. This being due to violation of heritage Acts.


Arunachaleswarar temple: 

Arunachaleswar temple, Tiruvannamalai, TN

A popular center of Shaivism  associated the  element of fire, or Agni,  Arunachaleswarar temple is an historical one. One of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalams, the  temple complex covers 10 hectares, and is one of the largest in India with four gateway /towers or gopurams. The tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories rising to a height of  66 metres (217 ft);  it is one of the tallest temple towers in India  completed by  Sevappa Nayakkar (of Tanjore or Thanjavur Nayak dynasty), a vassal of Vijayanagara ruler. Here, the lord's consort is Unnamalai Amman who is enshrined in a separate shrine. The temple complex has many halls with ornate stone pillars, sculptures and the most  striking one being  the thousand-pillared hall built during the Vijayanagara period. 

The Chola dynasty built the first masonry structure in the 9th century,in the later period  dynasties like  the Vijayanagara,  the Sangama  (1336–1485 CE), the Saluva Dynasty and the Tuluva (1491–1570 CE) made additions and expansions.  The temple is being managed by  the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR & CE) of the Government of Tamil Nadu.