Continued from Part 1

The Gopuram and Singaravelar shrine, seen from the western wall where the Bhadrakali shrine once stood
The Gopuram and Singaravelar shrine, seen from the western wall where the Bhadrakali shrine once stood

It is Mukund who describes in detail as to the exact contributions of later dharmakarta-s. She writes that the descendants of Muthiappa Mudali handed over the management of the temple to Ponnambala Vadyar and Kanakasabai Pandaram. Considering that a street that is just next to the temple commemorates the former, we can surmise that the temple had acquired its present boundaries within a generation after Muthiappa Mudali. The next major change happens in 1749 when, with the restitution of Madras to the British, San Thomé-Mylapore also becomes part of East India Company territory. Whereupon the head conicopoly of the Export Warehouse and later dubash of Governor Saunders, Kumarappa Mudali, became the dharmakarta.

The temple was by then in a ‘ruinous condition’. Kumarappa, who has a street named after him in Mylapore and another in the Seven Wells area of George Town, found the temple lands encroached upon by people of ‘foreign religions’. The four Mada streets had become mere lanes. The temple was barely functioning, with daily worship being suspended owing to want of funds. Using his high office to good effect, Kumarappa bought off the encroachers and reclaimed the lands. He rebuilt the temple walls and tank, had the four main streets broadened and planted coconut trees on their periphery. He had the processional icons made, fashioned carriages and mounts, commissioned temple jewellery and recruited temple servants and dancing girls, for whom he had houses built.

The Kapali ther - commissioned by Pammal Subbaraya Mudali?
The Kapali ther – commissioned by Pammal Subbaraya Mudali?

After Kumarappa, his brother Nattu Subbaraya, who also has a street named after him in Mylapore, took over as trustee and he, in turn, was succeeded by Kasi Mudali. During the latter’s tenure, there was evidently an extensive reconstruction of the temple, for Waghorne, quoting from Mackenzie, states that the ‘Cabalasewara pagoda’ was built by ‘Bagavintorayer, Causy Mood and Coomy Valappa Mood’. The Causy Mood was evidently Kasi Mudali. By 1800, Kasi Mudali’s son Masilamani Mudali had succeeded to the trusteeship. But the Tuluva Vellalars were not happy with his management and petitioned the Board of Revenue (BOR) for his removal. A Native Committee appointed by the BOR went into great detail in its investigation and discovered that Kasi Mudali had nominated five people to succeed him. Three were considered to be suitable by the Committee and these were Pammal Subbaraya Mudali, Kovur Vaidyanatha Mudali, merchant of the East India Company, and Coonra Vellaiyappa Mudali (this being Mackenzie’s Coomy Valappa Mood). Vaidyanatha Mudali was also trustee of the Chintadripet Adipuriswara temple and has a street named after him in that area.

The drab and unimpressive Navagraha shrine in the Kapali temple. Did it replace a shrine to the Sun God?
The drab and unimpressive Navagraha shrine in the Kapali temple. Did it replace a shrine to the Sun God?

It would appear that Coonra Vellaiyappa Mudali’s line became extinct after him, for the Kovur and Pammal families handled temple affairs for a time. Pammal Subbaraya Mudali is recorded to have conducted the temple festivals splendidly for over ten years, spending about 20 or 30,000 pagodas in constructing the temple chariot and gifting gold and silver vessels. In 1810, his passing created a vacancy. The Tuluva Vellalars petitioned the Collector of Madras, F.W. Ellis (he of Tirukkural fame) to entrust the post of dharmakarta to Ayya Mudali, commemorated in a street in Chintadripet. Within five years, however, the community deemed Ayya Mudali to be old and infirm and requested that Kovur Sundara Mudali, the last Chief Merchant of the East India Company, be given the responsibility instead. The Company refused and Ayya Mudali remained in charge despite his ‘old age and infirmities’, whatever they were. This was despite Sundara Mudali having sponsored the annual festival in 1821 at a cost of 200 pagodas and constructed ‘useful buildings’ within the temple. Kovur Sundara Mudali, incidentally, is remembered chiefly for bringing the composer Tyagaraja to Madras in 1837. His palatial house on Bunder Street still survives in a decrepit state. A long street in Mylapore commemorates him and it has, over time morphed into Sundareswarar Swamy Street!

The non-controversial Pammal line appears to have served the longest, lasting well over a century. Pammal Vijayaranga Mudaliar, who was in the Education Department of the Government, served as trustee till his passing in 1895 after which his elder son, Pammal Ayyasamy Mudaliar, held the post till 1905 when he resigned on his being appointed a District Munsiff. The trusteeship passed to Vijayaranga Mudaliar’s younger son Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar, the playwright. He remained trustee till his appointment as a judge of the Small Causes Court in 1924. According to him, it was during his time that the eastern gopuram was built, thanks to a businessman of Triplicane whose name was subsequently forgotten and whom Sambanda Mudaliar refers to only as Gopuram Chettiar! It was also Sambanda Mudaliar who got the tank steps laid out. The seed money of Rs. 5000 came from the bequest of a sanyasi who had collected money for this purpose. But the total estimate came to Rs 1 lakh. When local residents baulked at the expense, Sambanda Mudaliar hit upon the idea of inscribing donors’ names on the steps. This caught public fancy and money came in. The names of the donors can still be faintly made out.

The temple management was taken over by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board following its creation in the 1920s and the concept of hereditary trusteeship ceased thereafter.


You may want to read these other stories on the Mylapore temple:

Keeping the peace at Kapali’s Festival

Mylapore Kapali Ther 2014

Can the Mylapore Temple Festival be better run?

When Mylapore comes alive…

The Mylapore Temple Festival in 1910

Mylapore in 1910

Rishabha Vahanam at the Mylapore Temple

A nun in Mylapore

Music and dance at the Mylapore temple

The Mystery of Mathala Narayanan

Mylai Velli Vidai/Rishabha Vahanam

Adhikara Nandi at the Kapaliswarar Temple

Bhikshatana procession at Mylapore

Singaravelar Procession

The Ballad of Arupathu Moovar

A 150 year old Thanneer Pandal

Some of Kapali’s Vahanams

Adhikara Nandi Sevai at Kapali temple

The quaint ritual of Vana Bhojanam

Papanasam Sivan

Kapali Karpagam Kalyanam!