CUDDALORE: In an emerging trend, gigantic idols or ‘Vishwaroopams’ of Hindu divinity tower over the skyline along the highways in Nadunadu — as places falling under present-day Villupuram, Cuddalore and Ariyalur districts are described in ancient Tamil literature — sidestepping the rich spiritual tradition of the land where worshipping small idols inside temples with tall gopurams is the convention.
At least four such gargantuan roadside idols, two of Goddess Kali, one of Lord Hanuman and one of Lord Murugan, stand testimony to the new practice of installing eye-catching idols, outside small temples, mostly run by soothsayers and godmen.
These colourfully painted idols are made of cement and steel, unlike the olden times when idols were carved out of stone or cast in metal or alloys like panchaloha.
The latest new-generation idol to come up in the region is a 81-foot tall cement idol of Thillaivana Kalli Amman that was installed a few months back by a godman, Muthukumaraswamigal, at Cuddalore Old Town on the Puducherry-Chidambaram road. He told Express that the idol, which took three years for the sculptor to complete, was done at a cost `10 lakh, contributed by devotees. “The small Kali idol is self-existent (Swayambu) and the bigger one draws the attention of passers by. Since it stands close to the railway station and the busy East Coast Road, the temple has many visitors,” Muthukumaraswamigal said.
The maker of the idol, Sthapathi M Ilango, who is based in Thiruvathigai in Cuddalore district, said godmen opt for such big idols along highways to make their presence felt and attract more devotees. Ilango has also made another Kali idol, which now stands 51 feet tall at Andimadam. Pachayamman Swamigal of Andimadam said, “Dhakshina Kali appeared in my dream and asked me to build this temple and idol. This 51-feet idol was made in 2011 using more than 200 packs of cement. Earlier, this was a small temple and now we have this big idol.” He too depended on contribution from devotees for the project.
At Kullanchavadi on the Cuddalore-Vriddhachalam road stands the 30-feet high Murugan atop a temple. Ramalingam, who headed the team that built the Murugan temple, said, “After a milk-like substance oozed out of a Neem tree near the road, we decided to build a temple there. That was many years ago. Then last year, we planned to have a huge idol of Murugan resembling the famous idol in Malaysia. So, we collected money from the residents and put up this 30-foot Murugan idol, made by a stapthi in Chidambaram, this year.”
Apart from these, many huge Hanuman idols have come up along the highways in the last decade. Explaining the trend, Sthapathi Ilango said, “Usually we make small and medium size cement idols, which are bought by those who build temples. The latest trend is to go for gigantic idols of Hanuman that are as high as 20 to
30 feet.” “The Hanuman idols are installed at spots where monkeys die of road accidents or electrocution. Earlier, people used to build small Hanuman temples and now it is huge idols,” he added. One such idol stands 30 feet tall at Kumarapuram near Cuddalore.