August 17, 2016

The Gujaratis of Chennai and their Temple

The Gujarati community of Chennai has its own history and tradition. Kheda is a district near Ahmedabad city in Gujarat state. The Brahmin community from Kheda are called as Khedawal Gujaratis. A group of Khedawal Gujaratis from Kheda district migrated to Tamil Nadu state in the beginning of the 18th century CE. The reason for their migration or the exact year of their migration is not known, though there are different versions and different theories about their migration.

It should be noted that Thanjavur was ruled by the Marathas from the late 17th century CE. Probably, during the Marathas period, apart from the Marathis and Saurashtras, even the Gujaratis decided to migrate to Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, the Khedawal Gujaratis first settled down in Thanjavur. Hence, they are also referred as Thanjavur Gujaratis. Later, they migrated to other cities of Tamil Nadu such as Trichy, Tirunelveli and Chennai.

Two women, Ramkor Bai and Ratna Bai by name, from a wealthy Tawker family of Gujarati community from Chennai, went for pilgrimage to Varanasi in the beginning of the 19th century CE. They brought two Shiv Lingas from Varanasi and installed them in a temple in Ayanavaram and in Motta Uttara in Sowcarpet.

Motta Uttara is also called as Sri Niketan. It is a community center for Khedawal Gujratis, located in Mint street opposite to Ekambareswar temple. In Uttara, there is a small shrine which enshrines this 200 years old Shiv Linga from Varanasi. As this was originally brought from Varnasi, the Linga is called as Kasi Vishwanath.

There is another highlight about this shrine. In the sanctum, the idols representing five out of six Dharmas of Hinduism are found. They are Vishwanatha Linga of Shaivism, Vishalakshi of Shaktism, Surya of Sauram, Ganesh of Ganapathyam and Vishnu of Vaishnavism. Apart from Shiv Linga, all other idols are later additions. The sanctum faces the west direction and not the usual east direction.

The wall around the sanctum has the Koshta idols of Dakshinamurti, Vishnu and Durga.

There is a sub-shrine which enshrines some Utsav (mobile) idols. The adjoining Pooja room has some very old photographs of various deities.

Happy travelling.

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