Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bairagi Madam Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple, Sowcarpet, George Town – History

Bairagi Madam Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple, Sowcarpet, George Town – History
Bairagi is a Hindu Vaishnava sect. It was arguably started by the saint Ramananda in the 14th century CE. There are four divisions of Bairagis, namely Ramanujis, Nimanandi, Vishnu Bairagi and Tyagi Bairagi. The Bairagis are found in large number in Nagpur and around in Maharashtra as well as Allahabad and around in Uttar Pradesh. As per the historian Shri S. Muthiah, it was probably this temple, which was referred as "Lorraine's Pagoda" in the Madras Map dated 1710 CE. He even believes that Kitti Narayana, the son of the famous Dubash Beri Thimanna, would have constructed this temple in the late 17th century CE. "Lorraine" was probably the anglicized form of Narayan.
The temple authorities have altogether different story. According to them, Bairagi Mutt was formed even before the British arrived Madras (Chennai). (Mutt, which is also written as Matha or Math, is more like a monastery for Hindu saints). Lal Das Ji, a Bairagi saint from Lahore (which is part of Pakistan nowadays), started this mutt in the early 1600s. He apparently cured the stomach ache of a rich Muslim woman. She donated gold coins to the saint, which he used to extend the mutt and built the temple of Venkatesa Perumal.
It appears that this temple might have been built by Bairagi saint and not by the Dubashi's son due to the following reasons: The temple is under the administration of the Bairagi community even today. The successors of Lal Das Ji (Mahants) still live in the mutt. The architecture of the temple resembles Vijayanagara or Nayaka period. There is no reason why a Dubashi in the British period would have followed this style of the architecture. The temple is magnificent with so many sub-shrines and hundreds of idols. There is no other temple in Madras built or contributed by the British or its Dubashis, which has so many number of sub-shrines. All such temples are very simple in layout and have only limited number of deities.
Bairagis are there all over India. In North India, wherever a mutt of Bairagi is found, an adjoining temple is also found, similar to this temple complex. But Kitti Narayana might have contributed to this temple. The temple is being referred as Lorraine Pagoda in the map. "Lorraine" was probably the anglicized form of Narayan. This Name is not based on Kitti Narayana but based on the Presiding Deity. Definitely, this Temple was not built by any Dubashi or Dubashi's family members.

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