Feature Article

Perumaa値 temple consecrated in Myanmar

[TamilNet, Saturday, 30 January 2010, 11:25 GMT]
Tamils in Myanmar impressively consecrated a renovated Perumaa値 temple in Yangon on Wednesday morning. Several thousands of Tamils participated in the ceremonies. A 13th century Tamil inscription in Myanmar records that a Perumaa値 temple patronized by Tamils existed at the earlier capital at Pagan.

Myanmar Perumaa'l temple
Consecration of the entrance tower [Photo courtesy: Solai Thiyagarajan from Myanmar]

The temple for Kalyaa地a Vengkadeasap Perumaa値 (Thirumaal or Vishnu in his form found at Thiruppathi), accompanied by Alarmeal Mangkai (the lady on the flower: Thirumaka値 or Lakshmi), is situated 10 km from Yangon at a place called Thirukkampai, which is known as 銑ittle Tamil Nadu.

Myanmar Perumaa'l temple
Thousands participated the consecration of Perumaa'l temple at Thirukkampai in Yangon, Myanmar [Photo courtesy: Solai Thiyagarajan from Myanmar]
Myanmar Perumaa'l temple
A view of the interior [Photo courtesy: Solai Thiyagarajan from Myanmar]
Myanmar Perumaa'l temple
The practice of ceremonial 'temple dance' in front of the deity still surviving in the Tamil temples of Myanmar is of cultural anthropological significance. [Photo courtesy: Solai Thiyagarajan from Myanmar]
Myanmar Perumaa'l temple
A Tamil folkdance as part of the procession [Photo courtesy: Solai Thiyagarajan from Myanmar]
Tamil Brahmi on touchstone
A touchstone (uraikal) of a Tamil goldsmith found in Thailand. The Tamil Brahmi inscription dateable to 3rd century CE found on the stone reads, 'Perum pathan kal', meaning the stone (kal) of the great goldsmith (Perum-paththan) [Image courtesy: www.exhibitions.nlb.gov.sg/kaalachakra]
Seven Paddaachchaariyaars, who came from Tamil Nadu performed the ceremonies, according to Solai Thiyagarajan, who sent news and images of the consecration to media.

Paddaachchaariyaars are authorities in performing consecration of Vaishnava temples of the Dravidian style in the Agamic way of South India (it is Sivaachchaariyaars in the case of Saiva temples).

Venkatasamy Nayakkar, an industrialist from Tamil Nadu, originally built the temple in 1904.

The interaction between Myanmar and Tamils go back to the times of the advent of maritime activities in the Bay of Bengal, as trade winds and currents were particularly conducive for swift and direct communication between Myanmar which was known in Sanskrit as Swarna Bhumi (the land of gold) and the ancient Tamil country.

The presence of Tamil traders or artisans of gold in the region, during the early centuries of the Common Era, is attested to by a Tamil Brahmi inscription found in neighbouring Thailand. The legend in Tamil, 善erum Paththan Kal (the stone of the great goldsmith), seen on a touchstone, also happens to be the earliest writing so far found in Thailand (P. Shanmugam, 1993, and I. Mahadevan, 1994).

The Burmese alphabet of today, which is a continuity of the script of the Mon, an early ethnicity of Myanmar, is considered to have come from South Indian writing system, especially the Tamil-Grantha writing.

A 13th century inscription, found at Myinpagan, in Pagan in Myanmar, beginning with Sanskrit invocation and then records the subject matter in Tamil, tells us the existence of a Perumaa値 temple, belonging to the Tamil trade-guild of 鮮aanaatheasi, at Pagan. (E. Hultzsch, Epigraphia Indica 7, 1902-1903, pp197-98)

The inscription names the temple as Naanaatheasi Vi地地akar Aazhvaar at Pukkam (Pagan), alias Arivaththanapuram (ceremonial ancient name of the capital), and says that a person Eeraayiran seeriyaan alias Kulaseakara Nampi coming from Makoathayar Paddanam (a town of the Cheras; Maak-koathai is a title of the Cheras), of Malai Ma地dalam (Malaiyaa値am: Kerala), made a gift of a hall, a sacred door and a fixed lamp to perpetually light the hall in the temple.

British colonial conquest of Burma in the 19th century witnessed a new spurt of migration of traders, contractors and workers from the Tamil region of British India.

It is said that the massive teakwood used in the construction of the palace of the Chettiyars of Kaanaadukaaththaan and other such palatial households in the Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu were floated at the delta of Irawathy River in Burma and were received in the country of Chettiyars near the Paampan Channel, just carried by the currents of the Bay of Bengal.

Burma became separated from British India in 1936.

Anti-Indian sentiments after the independence of Burma in 1948 and diplomatic failure of Nehru痴 India saw a large number of Tamils coming to Tamil Nadu as Burma refugees, when General Newin became the military dictator in the early 1960s.

Massive teak-wood pillars of the Chettinad palace at Kaanaadukaaththaan [Photo courtesy: Oochappan's Photostream]
Kaanaadukaaththaan Palace
Chettinad (Cheddinaadu) palace at Kaanaadukaaththaan [Photo courtesy: Jai's Gallerey, Picasa Web Album]


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