Agasthya 5.3 Sorimuthian Kovil - past romance and present challenges
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KMTR, although primarily protected for its biological heritage and diversity, nestles various religious and cultural enclaves. Prominent among them is the Sorimuthian Kovil (SMK), an old temple patronized by the Singampatti Palayam of the Pandian dynasty. It has been traditionally managed by the erstwhile Zamin of Singampatti and the temple trustees. Even after the notification of the area as a Tiger Reserve in 1988, the traditional management authorities were retained. The temple premises, including the sanctum sanctorum, cover an area of a few hectares. It is situated between Papanasam and Karaiyar Dam, in a serene and secluded atmosphere. However, the tranquility is severely tattered during the Adi-Amavasai festival, falling in the Tamil month of Adi (between July – August) during which the Sorimuthian temple attracts an estimated two lakh visitors. The festival spreads over three days with preparations for it starting almost a month earlier. Notwithstanding the religious rituals and sentiments, the festival also acts as a major socio-cultural fiesta for the people from the surrounding areas. The festival's huge congregation also offers an opportune moment for the erstwhile Zamindar, popularly known as the Raja of Singampatti, to conduct a customary durbar during the festival with high voltage traditional dances and martial arts being performed in his honor. Muthianar with his two consorts Poorna and Pushkala is the main deity to be worshipped, along with other deities like Sangili Boothathar, Thoosi Madan, Karadi Madan, Petchi, Isakki, Pattavarayan and many more deities called Bootha-kanas. Mahalinga Swamy is represented in the form of lingam called ‘Swayambulingam’ meaning that it appeared on its own.

Many folk-stories are attributed to this temple. Sorimuthian is from the term 'Sori Muthu Aiyan'. Sori in Tamil means shower, Muthu in classical Tamil means flowers, Aiyan represents Aiyanar. The legend is that Agasthya, while he was worshiping Shiva, had a gnanadhrishti (divine vision) whereby he saw Shiva-Parvathi showering flowers (blessings) on Aiyanar who was worshiping the Shiva-Parvathi in the location where the temple is located today. Thus, Sorimuthiyan is popularly known as the Lord who showers blessings (in the form of rain) in the plateau. The temple is divided into two, by the passage of a branch from the main river. A temple is erected for Pattavarayan, a Brahmin, and his two wives, belonging to the cobbler community, a rare example of inter- caste marriage from yore. According to a popular legend Lord Pattavarayan, a warrior, lost his life defending the marauding forces of bandits trying to take away all the cattle from the temple-area. His wives perform ‘Sati’ (committing suicide) to join the departed husband's soul.

The three days of Adi Amavasai period are celebrated with high festivity. All these rich and deep-sitting cultural and religious sentiments results in the gargantuan influx which includes large number of pilgrims and cultural tourists. Apart from them, numerous petty shopkeepers, politicians, representatives and activists of social welfare and environmental-protection, and police also are present in sizeable number. Although people come from all over Tamil Nadu, great proportions of the regular pilgrims originate from Alangulam taluk of Tirunelveli district. While the peak human presence is seen during the main three days of the festival, many others extend their stay beyond it and few even camp up to a month. Over the years with rapid improvement in surface transport and communication modes in the area, there seems to have been an exponential increase in the presence and influx of humans particularly during the festival. With improved camping facilities and better access, there is an increase in the number of campers as well as camping period with the camps spilling over in the surrounding forest. At ATREE, we have been trying to balance activism, research and outreach for the past five years to not only control, but also negate the adverse impacts of such a large gathering on the surrounding forests. However, the greater challenge to devise ways to counter the impacts without harming the religious sentiments of the people remains.



Editorial Team
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salegame

Volume 5,  Issue 3
      November 2011

A S H O K A   T R U S T   F O R   R E S E A R C H   I N   E C O L O G Y   A N D   T H E   E N V I R O N M E N T

Sorimuthian Kovil - past romance and present challenges
- Rajkamal Goswami
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