While walking around the White Town or the French Quarters in Pondicherry or Puducherry we came across a beautiful temple.
A temple which was constructed 3 centuries ago, even before the French (before 1666 CE) came to the erstwhile Pondicherry or present day Puducherry; a temple with a unique name – Manakula – In Tamil (one of the principle languages of the area) Manal means sand and Kulam means pond near the sea, which earlier was full of sand around pond. The principle deity of the temple is Lord Ganesha or Ganpati who is referred as Manal Kulathu Vinayagar meaning the God near the pond of sand.
The temple is located in the White Town area or the French Quarters – the area which was inhabited by the French. During the tenure of Dupleix, there were attempts to destroy the temple but the temple was finally spared owing to strong protests from the Hindu population and the threat of British and Maratha invasion of the territory. There is a story which says that the French went to the extent of throwing the deity in the sea many times but each time the deity came back to same place where the temple is now.
The temple architecture would remind one of the traditional Deccan era Tamil style temples across Southern India.
The temple deity is east facing. Inside the temple premises there is a shrine devoted to Lord Murugan, who according to the Hindu mythology is the younger brother of Lord Ganesha. The temple deity Ganesha’s (who is also known as ‘Moolavar’) idol has 4 hands. The southern side wall of the temple has 3 rows of sculptures of gods and stone engravings. 1st row has 33 types of Ganesha idols, 2nd row has 25 types of Ganesha idols and 3rd row has stone engravings of Ashtalakshmi Srotram (prayer of Ashta Lakshmi i.e. 8 manifestations of Goddess Lakshmi), Vinayagar Kavacham (armour hymn of Lord Ganesha), Idumban and Kadamban Kavacham (armour hymns of Lord Murugan), Vinayagar Ashtothram (108 names of Lord Ganesha) and Bharthiyar Vinayaga Naanmani Malai (Tamil poet and revolutionary Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi’s masterly work where he has described Lord Ganesha (his favourite deity) as an embodiment of religious harmony).
One can find 40 forms of Lord Ganesha in this temple. Inside the temple premises is the famous Golden Chariot. This 10 ft by 6 ft chariot has 7.5 kgs of gold and was made purely with the donations from the devotees. The devotees on a payment of fixed fees can pull the chariot inside the premises. On Vijaydashmi day the chariot is run outside the temple (only in the Maada Veedhis or the 4 streets around the temple).
The most interesting feature of this temple is temple female elephant Lakshmi. The elephant who will gently place her trunk on your head as a blessing (you have to pay a small fees and offer her grass or fruits).
All around the temple premises you would find small shops selling various items for worship including the offerings of fruits and flowers.
The temple (in normal days) is open from 5.45 am – 12.30 pm and then 4.00 pm -9.00 pm (till 10.00 pm on Fridays). Timings change during the days of Festivals.
Brahmothsavam is the mega festival of Lord Manakula Vinayagar which is celebrated every year for 24 days during the month of August & September.
This temple should be a must visit in your itinerary while visiting Pondicherry.