5. Lotus filled Temple Tanks

Pink lotuses bloom in profusion. Bees and butterflies flutter in a drunken search for nectar. Rainwater from nearby streets drain into the temple tank. Large green leaves plate the tank, devotees stand knee deep near the symmetrical steps that lead down into the water. Temple bells lend the last idyllic touch to that ethereal scene of a tank created by the Vajra or thunderbolt at the Vallakotai Murugan Temple.
The whole village surrounding the tank co-operated with the Rotary club of Madras West and set out to clean the tank. In ancient Indian society, every citizen participated in the cleaning of temple tanks. Today, the Panchayat gets involved in carting away the garbage and silt. The silt is used by famers to fertilize their fields. The whole process cost was Rs.50000/- in the year 2000.
It is important for civic minded citizens to bring back, this ancient rule of Shramdhan or the giving of service to keep the temple tank clean.
I have experienced the thrill of seeing many temple tanks cleaned by Rotary Clubs in Tamil Nadu. I once saw a beautiful tank that was slowly being turned into a garbage dump by a real estate builder who was trying to get the tank condemned as a public health hazard. Every week, garbage collection trucks dumped their contents into the chocking tank. The local community with the Rotary club of Vadapalani stopped this process and cleaned temple tank bringing it back to its original pristine purity. India stands second in land water resources with 113 large and medium rivers flowing across 29,000 kilometers and 600 large and medium reservoirs. It is clear that India suffers chronic water shortage because of poor water management.
Temple Tanks are an artistic and ancient way of conserving rainwater. Increase in population and human greed is responsible for the destruction of more than half the tanks. A quarter of the tanks have been replaced by play grounds, commercial complexes and parks. Many tanks are polluted by industrial effluents and domestic waste. Rainwater drains are filled with sewage and this has seeped into water bodies. Pesticides have also leached into tanks. Hospitals wastes are a major hazard. Weeds make water unusable.
Tanks maintain the ground water level. It has been proved that co-operation between citizens, government and NGO’s can keep tanks clean at a low cost. In Tiruvarur, Sri Thyagarajar Temple has the Kamalayam tank which covers 25 acres. Imagine the impact of cleaning this. Chennai has 56 temple tanks and over 4000 across the State. Over 528 tanks have been renovated. The Chief Minister, who made rain water harvesting statutory, has initiated this. Rotary clubs, which have been involved in this area, should get involved in long term maintenance.
Temple tanks are designed to collect rainwater with many inlets and outlets, which are now blocked. The Brihadeshwar temple, built in 1010 AD is cleaned naturally by fish, micro organisms and plants. There is an ancient Mayan saying, “What we do to water, we do to those we love.” Let us stop littering.
A group of volunteers from two colleges in Trichy got down to clean the tank in the Rock fort Sri Thayumanaswamy temple. They toiled 6 hours to clean this tank which measures 9000 sq.ft. They networked with the city Corporation and the Fire Service rescue services. A boat was provided by the Fire Services. The waste material was cleared immediately in trucks by the city Corporation. This included waste bottles, hundreds of gunny bags, waste clothes, plastic shampoo sachets and vegetable matter!
What can we do:
• We can become involved with a neighbourhood temple tank
• We can stop littering temple premises and became part of the cleaning team.
• Help the temple to network with NGO’s like Rotary, Temple Exnora and Government
• Share news of cleaning activities with the media and use social media to spread the news.
• Supporting the cleaning tanks through a giant.