THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘Thulasithara’, the raised platform on which a holy basil is grown, is auspicious for a residence, according to Hindu belief.
But a wayside memorial to AKG and EMS in front of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, with a ‘thulasithara’ on its premises, is a curious sight for onlookers. However, the red-painted ‘thulasithara’ with an engrossing CPM symbol was not set up for any religious reasons, says Shihabuddeen, convener of the CITU unit at East Fort, which manages the memorial.
The open-roofed memorial and its premises also double up as the unit office. “Since this is a busy stretch, several people visit here. Many used to spit and litter here. But it all ended after we planted the basil,” Shihabuddeen said. ‘’The ‘thara’ (platform) is actually the remains of an old memorial structure,” he added.
The open-roofed memorial and the granite bench at the unit office situated under two shady trees is a convenient resting place for devotees on the grand pathway in front of the temple.
“Since our office is also visited by pilgrims, the basil plant was an ideal choice,” Shihabuddeen said.
The nearby traders say the memorial premises are more than a resting place to the pilgrims. “Pilgrims, especially those from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, have great respect for the basil plant. Quite often, we have seen pilgrims, who arrive here to take rest, bowing in front of the ‘thulasithara,’” said Rajan, a coffee vendor. “Some of them even draw ‘kolams’ in front of the structure,” he added.
The union office also serves as an information centre for pilgrims from other states. “Since our office is situated at the beginning of the road, the pilgrims come to our office for information on the temple. The ‘darshan’ timings of the temple are by heart for us,” Pramod, a unit member, said. The CITU unit office’s connection with the temple doesn’t end here.
For the past several years, the unit members have been in charge of erecting the huge images of ‘Pancha Pandavas’ during the Painkuni festival. “In 1993, the workers who were assigned the job delayed the work owing to a miscalculation in their plan. The following year, the temple authorities asked us to do the job. We executed the work on time under the leadership of the late Parameswaran Nair, one of our colleagues,” Shihabuddeen said. “Since then, we have been doing the job without using any modern equipment,” said Ajikumar, a unit member and son of Parameswaran Nair.