The priests, pilgrims and poor, who live in the temple town of Srirangam in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy region, returned to their everyday life of religion and alms a day after the most famous daughter of the town, J Jayalalithaa, was laid to rest in Chennai. The narrow streets that lead to the famous Sri Ranganath Swamy temple in the town —nestled between the Cauvery and Coleroon rivers — began humming with activities at the break of dawn. Posters paying tributes to Jayalalithaa, dotting the entrance to the temple complex and a few street corners, were the only signs showing the town had been in mourning.
The East Chithirai Street in the town, which houses the ancestral house of Jayalalithaa’s mother, was silent. Jayalalithaa called Srirangam her home in Tamil Nadu a few years ago when she contested assembly poll from the town. There is no relative or friend in the town, who remembers Jayalalithaa’s family from their days in Srirangam.
“They moved away many decades ago. Her grandfather was called diwan because he used to work for the Mysore Maharaja. The ancestral house has changed many hands,’’ said 63-year-old S Vardarajan, a priest at the main temple complex who lives on the East Chithirai Street a few houses away from Jayalalithaa’s ancestral home.
Srirangam has over the years, even prior to Jayalalithaa’s rise in politics, been loyal to AIADMK. “This is an AIADMK stronghold since MGR’s days. Amma has cemented that association,’’ said Vardarajan.
“Jayalalithaa’s stature has risen beyond what is attainable by ordinary people from this town. She enjoyed the support of the Iyengar community of the town because of her caste affiliations but her appeal in Srirangam goes beyond caste affiliations,’’ said Singaravelu, a resident who stood at a street corner talking about Jayalalithaa’s links to the town.
Among the things that people, especially the poor remember Jayalalithaa for in Srirangam is the introduction of three free meals at the temple daily and for starting an Amma canteen and medical stores.
“There are a lot of poor people in Srirangam, who depend on alms provided by temple visitors and the local business people to fill their stomachs each day. The introduction of measures like three meals at the temple by Amma has been beneficial for all,” said Sudhakar, an auto driver.