100 Days of Blogging

#35 : Day Seventeen – A trip to my ancestral village – Orathy

Situated a few kilometers before Thindivanam, Orathy is a quaint village belonging to the Kanchipuram district. My forefathers had long migrated from this village to various parts of the country in search of greener pastures. In fact, till recently, none of us in our family, including our extended family, truly knew where is village even existed. The only “Orathi” we knew were from the initials of my grandfather. We decided to talk to the elders of the family and consult our astrologer to find out further about the village. The need to find our family deity and about our roots drove us to an interesting treasure hunt.

After much deliberation, we drove down to the village. It felt like being transported to a scene from Bharathiraaja movie. Lush greenery, simple huts, people on bicycle and rustic smell of a typical village welcomed us. Though urbanization had slowly begun to spread its ugly tentacles there too, the charm of a simple agricultural village remained unmatched.  The people were warm and welcoming. It is a common complaint that when people from city drive down, the touts of the village rob them of their money in the name of charity. Surprisingly, we faced no such experience.

The village has three prominent temples – Shri Prasanna Venkatesha Perumal temple, Sri Selliyamman temple and Sri Draupadi Amman temple. We were able to trace out much history about the latter two temples while the first temple was built  1012 years ago by a Chozha king according to an inscription on the temple walls.

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When we embarked on this journey, I asked myself why really? It did feel intriguing to discover a new place, but Chennai is the only home I know of. Could one really connect with a place which was supposed to be ancestral home, but only for namesake? Could one really identify with a deity unknown?

To my utter surprise and mild disbelief, the place felt like home. The deity we identified as our “Family temple/god” or Kula Dheivam felt too familiar. Our Kula dheviam is Draupadi Amman. The village has a beautiful little temple for her constructed like a shed, smack in the middle of a large clearance. I felt at peace the moment I stepped into the temple. The place as such was so serene. To a seasoned city girl, the experience of feeling utter calmness was borderline unnerving yet was placating. Draupadi, is my favorite character from Mahabratha. She is a character of true strength. Visiting her holy abode inspired me continue to write the story I had  quit mid way. For reasons beyond my phantom, after each trip to this village, my creativity peaked. We made just two trips, with the second one being today, yet I feel like writing my head out.

This trip taught me the importance of community orientation. Could it have been that in older times, to maintain a vibrant and viable community, our ancestors had introduced the concept of celebrating the Kula Dheivam?

On this thought, signing off with pictures from both our trips.

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The village
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Way to the temple

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Draupadi Amman
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Space before Draupadi Amman Temple
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Shri Prasanna Venkatesha Temple
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Draupadi Amman Temple

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6 thoughts on “#35 : Day Seventeen – A trip to my ancestral village – Orathy

  1. Janani I am glad that you made it to Orathi.Umbilical cord with Orathi was cut when we sold a small piece of land sometime in 80s.You are right that not many in our clan knew or know that there exists a village called Orathi,except boasting about it very casually.My aunt
    (Jayamma athai) who was very much attached to me is to tell a lot about Orathi.In fact she was collecting 6 anna’s of rent from the plot that was sold till her death.Six Anna is equal to half a rupee.There were others (in modern we call them country cousins) who were travelling once a way and posting Jayamma athai about good bad and bad at Orathi.They visited us quite often .In other words till 1969 we were posted with goings at Orathi,although they may be patchy.Mind you I was a college going kid at that time and would get in volved in the gossip. I did travel to Orathi in the year 1963 to attend the my maternal grand father’s brother’s death ceremony. I only want to make a jarring observation regarding Kula devyam(spelling currect yourself).None ,notably my athai.grand mother,my father,my uncle never ever referred to any such thing in their lifetime.Indeed .if any such thing did exist,my athai would have pestered me to take her to that place atleast once.Neither my father.I have not heard any of my uncles or aunts referring to that so called KULA DEYVAM.This discovery is incorrect although amusing. An Iyengar is supposed to believe only in Narayanan and noneelse and that is why Iyengar clans do not have Kula deyvam.Any one can have a favourite deity and it simply it ends ther e. I am writing this so as to present a reasoned version and most importantly not be carried away by recent stories.

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    1. Thank you for that piece of information about your Athai.

      About the Kula Deivam – I beg to differ. It is not the question of being incorrect or correct. An Iyengar is “SUPPOSED” to believe in Narayanan as you say. The word “SUPPOSE” implies a rule or a practice in place. Given that majority of what we believe is either passed word of mouth or written by people with strong views on things, what if that was just another rule to inculcate faith in people? I’m sure the supreme Lord Narayana himself wouldn’t have forced people to not believe in others.

      My take on whole concept of having a Kula dheivam is rather simple and not really “recent” – Technically, for any Hindu family immaterial of the caste, the kula dheivam would invariably be situated in their ancestral village. It is highly possible that to encourage better relationships within the community our ancestors believed in gathering for festivities in that temple and celebrating as a community. It is not the question of which god is being celebrated, rather, it is the intention behind the celebration.

      We happened to meet the head priest of the Prasanna Venkateshwara Perumal temple. His family is the last remaining Brahmin family of Orathi village. He seems to know of my dad’s grandfather and his family. He also mentioned that Draupadi Amman was “like” a Kula deivam for about 80 other families (predominantly Iyengar) of that area.

      Thank you for pointing out about the spelling. Corrected it!

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