Goddess and gaudiness

The Muthyalamma temple in our area is a well known landmark. It has stood there for decades under a banyan tree. The deity, made of black stone is about a foot in length.

There are Nagara kallus on the stone pedestal surrounding the tree. The temple is located bang in the middle of a neighborhood. Small lanes radiate from it and match box houses abound in the lanes. People of all ages frequent the temple and it has been the centre of this community for as long as one can recall.

In childhood, it was this deity that a friend believed ensured her good grades. This was also the temple mothers of the area visited after their children’s summer bout of chicken pox and measles. The temple katte was the favourite haunt of all. Children learnt to take their first leap of faith from the low and wide stone structure. I loved the temple because it never seemed crowded despite so many locals visiting it. The breeze there always seemed pleasant, even in scorching summers and the smell of the incense sticks hung thick in the air. 

Of late, the temple is mute witness to rapid changes in its looks and functioning. There is the barricade which has come around its precincts so one can no longer sit on the stone pedestal. The cement benches in front of the temple are no substitute. The metal gates apart from guarding the goddess’ jewelry also shut out people like me.

Yes, Muthyalamma has a whole lot of gold now. She was not bedecked this way earlier but definitely looked prettier. The electronic drums that go off every evening call out to the faithful who now stand in a queue to catch a glimpse of Muthyalamma. I miss the informality of just walking in and out of the temple. With the growing prosperity of the local community has come the prosperity of the temple too. Every Friday, prasada is distributed in pink plastic containers that are to be found littered here and there.

Wouldn’t the sugar candy given earlier suffice? apparently not. The prasada is very tasty and is a huge draw. Come Navaratri and there is a special decoration everyday, announcements for which have already begun. Last year at the insistence of a friend, I went and found that the sight of our Muthyalamma decked in orchids and gerberas was disconcerting.

It was somewhat like finding my mother in a pair of dress pants. But when I hear the people around me rejoice at the changes that the temple has undergone, I found it difficult to agree, but I was in a minority.

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