Saturday, October 17, 2009

Malai Mandir - Uttara Swamimalai

Uttara Swamimalai meaning the Swamimalai of Lord Subramania in the North, as opposed to the 6 such in the South. It soon came to be called Malai Mandir, which is how it is known even today. The word malai (pronounced maley) in Tamil means hill and the name translates literally into a temple atop a hill. It is perched on a tiny hillock. The word though becomes mispronounced to its Hindi counterpart malai meaning cream! This was the bastion of South Indian families through the 70s till probably the 90s when other south Indian temples started dotting the Delhi landscape. My faintest earliest memories about it as a construction site when the temple was started to be built and the head of the Kanchi mutt camped there. The only thing I remember was seeing elephants which were a novelty in Delhi. Since then, the temple has grown to now becoming a landmark on the outer ring road. The temple houses the main deity – Lord Subramania and of other Gods including Shiva, Ganesha and Rajarajeshwari. The temple has been built in the traditional style of temples of Lord Subramania as in Tamil Nadu.

On festival days, the biggest being Skanda Shashti (shasti or 6th day after Diwali) one can get to view some of the finest of local dances and orchestra from Tamil Nadu. Be it the kavadi, karagam and more…

Location – On the outer ring road, opposite Vasant Vihar. Approximately 12 kms from Connaught Place. Specifically it is in Sector VII at R K Puram. There is plenty of parking available outside the gate. The temple can be seen from afar as atop a hill, a pretty sight giving the impression of a typical Tamil Nadu style temple. The walls have the typical red stripes on the outside.

Timings – During Summers Morning – 6:30 am – 11 / 12 am, Evenings – 5:30 – 9:00 pmWinters – Morning 7:00 am – 12:00 am, evenings – 5:00 – 8:30 pm. Do check with the temple authorities for timings on auspicious days, Sundays etc..

Highlight – This is “the” place to pick up Madrasi products – plantain leaves, kanakabaram (orange coloured flowers), kadambam (where floral chains are made with a riot of colours of flowers), lotus pods, rose petals. Most of the flowers are flown in straight from Chennai, still Madras to most of us. Karika patta, paan leaves…. I am told the prashad handed out is also equally tasty, though I am yet to be privy to it.

Insider Tip – The cynosure of all eyes within the temple premises are the two pairs of peacock/peahen. Their sharp cry is a blissful relief amidst the concrete jungle around. If lucky, the peacock can even deign to dance for you spreading its wings in happy abundance. Feed the peacocks and the voracious peahens (yes, she can literally bite the pieces off your hands) popcorns, corn or better still bits of coconut from the archana basket after the worship (chadava). This was revealed to me by a regular. Climb up the steps to the top where Lord Muruga / subramania diety presides. Sit on the outer periphery, there is always a breeze even on the stillest of day. The city looks gorgeous from there. Believe me, sitting up there enjoying the breeze, watching the city flow past hearing the peacock cry, it is truly an oasis – a heaven in the hustle bustle of the city.

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