There were about 300 shops selling all kinds of goods like accessories, clothes, books, utensils, etc., inside the Pudhu Mandapam. In order to develop the place into a heritage site, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department decides to evict the shops.
A Arunachalam, deputy commissioner and general manager of the temple, said that last Saturday the last group of shops were evicted. “All the stores were finally evacuated. We are doing cleaning work inside Pudhu Mandapam premises. After consultation with officials, the next course of action will be taken to develop the mandapam as a heritage site,” he added.
Pudhu Mandapam also called Vasantha Mandapam is said to have got its name from ‘Vaikasi Vasantha Utsavam’ which is celebrated every year as a festival in the Tamil month of Vaikasi at the Meenakshi Amman temple. The heritage structure built by Viswanatha Nayak in 1635 AD has 125 pillars in four rows and houses a number of rare and unique sculptures. The carvings also include those of the kings of the Nayakar dynasty. Several decades ago, various temple festival celebrations were held in the mandapam before the stores appeared.
“The Pudhu Mandapam is a beautiful place and the carvings there are amazing. I showed them to my children when they were little. Although the shopping there will be missed by many, I am happy that it is now becoming a heritage site where people can visit and appreciate the works of art,” said A Rajeshwari, a 76-year-old resident of the Mahal.
The eviction of shops from Pudhu Mandapam was first considered in 2010, as the shops led to the degradation of carvings and pillars. Subsequently, it was decided to move them to nearby Kunnathur Chathiram, a 17th century choultry built by a philanthropist named Chambalyan of Kunnathur.
The stores were due to be moved to the newly refurbished Kunnathur Chathiram by November 2021, but various issues have caused delays. Since February this year, all stores in Pudhu Mandapam have been phased out even though Kunnathur Chathiram currently houses only around 190 stores.