From a Travelogue to a Mission
How it all began
As a child and through the growing up years, traveling was a part and parcel of life due to my father’s frequent transfers. In every new place were several hidden jewels, well outside the popular tourist maps, unique, rare and absolutely awesome. For some reason, my heart went out to these places and whenever I visited one of them, I imagined myself to be part of the story they told, playing different roles
Came the era of digital cameras by which time I had started travelling extensively on work. I always made time to visit these unique places and shared the pictures with friends and family, with detailed narratives. The result was overwhelming. They came back, clamoring for more. The feedback was almost unanimous, they were fed up of visiting the same sites over and over again on vacation and were quite happy to see different places, lesser known and hence less crowded
Knowing the complete history and mythology associated with a temple made them appreciate the architectural splendor, the history and the heritage. As a story teller, I was able to weave tales around each shrine, which cast its magic upon its readers. They urged to make these posts more formal and hence was born Aalayam Kanden – a journey through ancient, unique and lesser known temples of India
What it entailed
Initially, blogging about the temples I had visited was fun. I just wrote about the place listing out the specialties of the temple, but soon I found that was not enough. Readers came back with a variety of questions – on iconography, inscriptions, logistics, and so on. The readership grew and became diverse
My search for unique temples took me to different corners of India – from Ganadhal in Karnataka where Lord Hanuman is believed to have obtained his Pancha Mukha, where new slippers are made for him every year and found to wear and tear, to Shani Shingnapur, the village with no doors, to Parangipettai, the birth place of Maha Avatar Babaji who was born in 203 AD and still believed to be alive in the Himalayas, each temple had a fascinating story to tell
So what started as a travelogue, soon turned into a serious affair. I did enough research to ensure that the articles gave complete and comprehensive and correct information. This took time. I also made sure I did not write about those temples on which there were already a number of posts available on the internet. The idea was to collaborate and not compete
From blogging to philanthropy
Most of the temples I visited and wrote about were languishing and sought support. Support for upkeep and maintenance, support for equipment, and support in creating awareness about their existence. When this was shared with the readers, they posed a question – why don’t you do something about this? So after careful thought and consideration was born the Aalayam Kanden Trust with an objective to create awareness about lesser known heritage sites, to support dissemination of the history and heritage of these sites through literature in English and local language and to support upkeep and maintenance
Over the last three years the Trust has gone from strength to strength. So what do we do through the trust?
The first initiative we undertook was to bring those ancient temples which do not even have a story to tell into the limelight. Every month one such temple was chosen and the date of visit advertised through a Facebook event. In most of the lesser known less visited temples, day to day maintenance itself is a struggle. We take enough oil and ghee that can be used over a month, and light up lamps in all the shrines. At least on that day, the temple looks bright and festive. This helped in creating sustained interest in protection and maintenance of these unique temples
Wherever there is enough material to bring out a brochure, we help in writing and distributing it free of cost to the temple. So far we have been successful in bringing out such booklets for three temples, one per year, with an aim of bringing out two this year
We help with small scale renovation and maintenance. A classic example of our work has been the building of temporary shelter at Sri Kari Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Nerkundram. A rare, one of its kind temple in Chennai. A brief video on the temple and what we did can be watched below
Future plans and how you can be involved
Our long term plan is to develop and maintain a heritage library which has the history of all of the ancient, unique and lesser known temples in the country and information is provided to the interested traveller free of cost! This has been an ongoing process of collection, and hopefully we should be able to find a donor soon to help set this up!
You can view the photographs from all our exciting events on our Facebook page. To stay updated on our activities do like our Aalayam Kanden Trust Facebook page today or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. All contributions to the trust are exempt from tax as per Sec 80G of the Income Tax Act
What started as a simple travelogue is today a mission!
About the Author:
Padmapriya T S (aka Priya Baskaran) is a cost and management accountant by training and works with a diplomatic organization in Chennai. An ardent traveller she has been writing about lesser known, ancient and unique temples in her blog Aalayam Kanden over the last four years. The blog enjoys more than 5.5 lakh page views from 160 countries and has been listed among the top Indian blogs for the last three years in succession. She has authored three books on temples and was also awarded the Rotary Vocational Service Excellence Award in 2013
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