Golden Temple of Vellore, not Amritsar

S. Balakrishnan

As soon as we hear the words Golden Temple our mind automatically recalls the image of the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab.  But there is a fabulous Golden Temple in Tamil Nadu also. This is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Goddess Narayani near Vellore town. While the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar is about 400 years old, the Narayani Temple is of recent origin, just a decade old.

The NarayaniGolden Temple has added one more feather to Vellore which has the distinction of staging a mutiny against the British in 1806 itself, 50 years before what is erroneously called the 1st war of India’s independence. Thus the Vellore Fort is historicallya significant one. Then came the CMC (Christian Medical College & Hospital) by Ms. Ida Scudder. In recent times, the VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology) has gained such a reputation that it attracts students from across the seas also. The Golden Temple is the fourth credit for Vellore. Oh, yes, Vellore is also famous (or notorious) for recording the highest temperature in Tamil Nadu during summer, year after year.

Hence we planned our visit during the pleasant November month. Right from the time I first heard of this Golden Temple I was curious to have a darshan of it and Goddess Narayani. Vellore is 145 kms from Chennai and theSripuram Golden Temple is another 5 kms from Vellore. We went there in the late afternoon so that we could have a view of the Golden Temple in daylight as well as in floodlight. What a gorgeous sight it was! A star-shaped winding path leads the devotees to the main Golden Temple that is surrounded by a moat-like structure filled with water that beautifully reflects the golden structure. I went speechless by the glittering marvelous structure. I wondered what thought would be running in the head of female devotees whose fondness for gold jewelry is unfathomable. Elephant heads keep sprouting water into the moat. After darshan of Goddess Narayani we also paid our respects to a golden moorthy/vigraha of Goddess Narayani. This, of course, is for a fee.

 Goddess Narayani means the embodiment of the main three Shakthi forms – Durga (valour), Saraswathi (wisdom) and Mahalakshmi (wealth). The temple stands majestically in Thirumalaikodi village, at a spot where originally an ant hill existed. It still exists and daily pujas are done to it. Built in a short span of seven years, the temple was consecrated in August, 2007.Shri Narayani Golden Temple is situated amidst a 100-acre lush green landscape in the middle of a star-shaped path. Over 1.5 tonnes of gold is used in 9-15 layers of gold foil, mounted on hand-etched copper plates, to create a traditional, Vedic-style temple architecture. 'Sri Lakshmi Narayani Golden Temple' is the world's largest Golden Temple. All parts of the main temple are covered completely in gold. Also installed in the temple is a solid idol of Sri Mahalakshmi with gold, weighing about 70 Kgs, hence revered as Sri Swarna Lakshmi.The complex also has a temple for Sri Srinivasa (Balaji), the consort of Lakshmi, in the form of a 10-foot tallvigraha. Poojas/sevasare performed to Srinivasa similar to Tirumala/Tirupathi. Water from all the major rivers of the country was brought to create the ecopond called ''Sarvatheertham''. The creation of this pond has resulted in a wonderful ecosystem for birds and insects, complemented by over 20,000 saplings of various species.

 The whole project is the divine vision and creation of Guruji Sri Sakthi Amma, which is really amazing. Besides creating religious awareness among the devotes, the Sri Narayani Trust’s charitable projects span across worthy areas like Education, Healthcare through outreach camps and services, Distribution of clothing, food & Old Age Pension, Rehabilitation of prisoners’ families, Women’s welfare, Zero waste management, Environmental conservation through planting of saplings and protection drives, Protection and care for Cows (Yes, the temple also houses an idol of cow in silver in reverence to its assistance to humankind since ages), emphasis on revival of Arts, Culture& Heritage, Supply of water in needy rural areas during summer season, Tribal Welfare, Mass Marriages and revival of ancient temples, etc.

I never visited the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar; so you are spared of me comparing this with that and that with this. Of course, Punjab is in my touring wish list which is endless. I would use the opportunity to visit theIndo-Pak Wagah Border also to peek into Pakistan. Thus I can boast of having ‘seen’ Pakistan as well! Electronic items like mobile phones, cameras are not permitted inside the complex. Hence images are courtesy the temple’s website. Safe deposit provision for a nominal charge is available. Temple accommodation is available for a fee.The temple is open from 8 to 8. Dress code is as appropriate while one visits a temple. For your ‘rich’ information, there is a helipad also within the complex of Sripuram Shri Narayani Golden Temple!