Varanapally Temple, Puthupally. Kayankulam

Village Temple Vs Urban Gods
Stories from behind the ornate locks of Varanapalli Temple.

This is the lady who sweeps the courtyard around the Varanapalli Temple. She and her family is in charge of keeping a quarter of the courtyard clean. She also helps with the many daily needs of the temple. For example, while we were there she was also making the preparations for lunch the next day to the village committee members who were having a meeting the next day. The menu was a nice spread. A semi-sadhya and it required quite a bit of preparation.

The story of the woman and the others like her are that they were distributed what was originally the temple land on which they live and cultivate.

Over the decades, almost all of the useful land that belonged to the temple has been distributed to the people who worked on it.

But look at the fields around the temple and you will notice that there is very little paddy cultivation anymore. The entire region which was a network of waterways that supported paddy cultivation has been filled in and used to build homes, plant less-labour intensive coconut and breed new strains of mosquitoes.

The water network of this region built over centuries is actually a marvel. However, it is dying and almost dead. No wonder, Kerala imports most of the food it consumes.

The rituals, that were dedicated to farming remain during festivals and temple festivals. But how relevant are these rituals in a non-farming landscape that this rural temple now occupies?

That would also explain the changing religious practices of the Hindus. The gods who are gaining popularity are not linked to the soil or the local economy. It's faraway Ayyappa, Mookambika, even Shani. There's the growing popularity of Ganesha and Saturn/Shani , who are more apt for the present economic needs. Greed and luck. I wonder if the Village Goddesses are losing their shine.


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