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Arulmigu Masani Amman Temple: Temple of Justice in Tamil Nadu

The Anaimalai Temple is a unique place of worship, which also serves as the justice provision authority among the devotees

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Arulmigu Masani Amman Temple. Image source: www.123coimbatore.com

August 23, 2016: Arulmigu Masani Amman Temple in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu is popularly known as the ‘temple of justice’ and is situated 15 miles from the town of Pollachi. The ones who are worshipped in this temple are Sri Masaniamman, Neethi Kal and Mahamuniappan.

Located where the Uppar stream and Aliyar River meet, the temple serves as a unique symbolism of the temple culture in India. It serves the purpose of a ‘panchaayat’ or as a welfare council for devotees, as a justice regulatory authority that settles disputes, and as a provider of remedies for sickly people.

Anaimalai Temple. Source: minube.ie
Anaimalai Temple, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Source: minube.ie

Devotees write down their desires or wishes on a paper and hand it over to the priest of the temple, hoping for a miracle and rectification of their wrong deeds. The temple has devotees meeting miles from different parts of the nation- on Tuesdays, Fridays and especially Krithigai and new-moon day.

The temple is also called Anaimalai Masani Amman Temple. It has a huge 17-ft long sprawling idol of Sri Masaniamman— with a serpent in her one hand, a skull in the other, and trident and ‘udakkai’ (drums in the shape of an hour glass) in her other hands. What attracts tourists and devotees to this temple is the different positioning of the image in a reclining form, which is not found in any other temples.

Reclined image of Masini Amman Source: www.anaimalaimasaniamman.tnhrce.in
Reclined image of Masini Amman
Source: www.anaimalaimasaniamman.tnhrce.in

Along with its mythological, legendary and historical connotations; this temple is an epitome of firm faith amongst devotees. Legend has it that when Lord Rama had set out to search for Sita, Rama had stayed in a graveyard at Anaimalai. Before leaving for Sri Lanka, Lord Rama created an idol of the goddess to worship, using clay. As a ‘vardaan’, Masaniamman blessed Lord Rama on his triumph over evil and winning his devoted wife back. The goddess was lying on her back in the graveyard, thus the reason why the image is placed this way.

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Since the beginning of Indian culture, the tradition of ‘dant kathaa’ has been played with the politics of interpretation. Dant kathaa or legend stories change from mouth to mouth, person to person. Mythologically speaking, it is believed that one’s prayers are answered within a time of nineteen days.

On the 18th day, a Mahamuni Puja is held and on the final day, the stone image (symbolising the Goddess of Justice) known as Neethi Kal responds to the pleading of the teased, the one who lost his riches, and many such people pay a visit to this temple. People take a holy dip in the water, wear the shrine’s holy ashes and grind some red chilly in the temple’s stone grinder. This paste of red chillies is now coated and greased on the ‘Neethi Kal.’

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Rubbed red chilly paste on the ‘stone of justice’ Source: www.anaimalaimasaniamman.tnhrce.in

However, the historical account of the temple’s origination narrates a different story: Anaimalai was ruled by Nannan— the chief of a clan. Nannan was in possession of some mango trees and appointed some officials to look after the trees and punish any trespassers. Later, a woman who was bathing in the Aliyar river caught sight of a mango that dropped from the tree and came floating in the water. As a result, the spying officials took her to the chief and ultimately, she was executed.

Soon, the tribe of the young woman got infuriated on this and killed the ruler in a battle in Vijaymangalam. The temple of ‘Justice’ is this built to commemorate her sacrifice and martyrdom.

prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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Angola Fossils Bring A New But Familiar Ocean in View

These fossils are the patrimony of Angola, these are their heritage, and for us to be able to bring them to the Smithsonian and ultimately back to Angola.

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Angola Fossils
This full-size fossil reconstruction of a sea turtle from the prehistoric South Atlantic looks very similar to the giant sea turtles which still swim in our oceans today. VOA

Some may be familiar with mythical sea monsters. For example, Scotland’s infamous Loch Ness Monster “Nessie,” and Giganto — fictional beasts of comic book fame. But millions of years ago, real-life sea monsters lived and thrived in what we now call the South Atlantic Ocean.

South Atlantic Ocean basin

As the continents of South America and Africa separated millions of years ago, scientists say a fantastic array of ferocious predators and other lifeforms colonized the newly formed body of water off the coast of Angola.

That diverse collection of marine reptiles included mosasaurs (aquatic lizards), plesiosaurs (which exhibited broad flat bodies, large paddlelike limbs, and typically a long flexible neck and small head), and the more familiar giant sea turtles.

But a catastrophic asteroid that hit earth 66 million years ago wiped most of them out, according to scientists.

Today, thanks to a project called Projecto PaleoAngola among Angolan, American, Portuguese and Dutch researchers, paleontologists have been able to visit the coastal cliffs of Angola to excavate and study what remains of these giant animals.

“We knew that there were fossils there, we just didn’t know how good they would be,” says Louis Jacobs, collaborating curator and professor emeritus of paleontology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

“Nobody had been there, so this was a vast, unknown terrain and we wanted to get there.”

A 72-million year-old ecosystem

What the team of paleontologists discovered was a treasure trove, giving them an unprecedented look into a strange yet familiar ecosystem.

In addition to mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and sea turtles, there were fossilized remains of a variety of fish and other marine life forms.

Angola, fossils
Modern cliffs of coastal Angola where Projecto PaleoAngola paleontologists excavate fossils of life that once lived in Angola’s ancient seas. VOA

While mosasaurs have been known to exist on all continents and are relatively common in certain places, this particular sample is the largest collection of southern hemisphere mosasaurs known, according to the paleontologists.

“It’s certainly the best locality for these kinds of animals in sub-Saharan Africa and it could be one of the best in the world,” Jacobs said.

Rediscovering a lost world

Eleven authentic fossils from Angola’s ancient seas, full-size reconstructions of a mosasaur and an ancient sea turtle are on display for the first time in a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, titled “Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas.”

There are also 3-D scanned replicas of mosasaur skulls, and photo-murals and video vignettes transport visitors to field sites along Angola’s modern rugged coast, where Projecto PaleoAngola scientists unearthed the fossil remains from this lost world.

 

Angola, fosiils
The seafaring lizard Prognathodon kianda was a top predator in the Cretaceous waters. Scientists named this species after Kianda, the ruler of the ocean in Angolan mythology. VOA

 

Jacobs, who was part of a team of scientists and students at SMU that helped prepare the fossils for the Smithsonian exhibit, says any visitor “can look and see and compare how the ecosystem and its animals of the cretaceous of 72 million years ago are similar to ecosystems today in the same general areas.”

“The species are different, but the ecological jobs of the species are very similar,” he added.

Giant lizards

Michael Polcyn, senior research fellow at SMU, pointed out an example in the exhibit.

Standing in front of a fossil skull and partial skeleton of a mosasaur, he described the reptile as an “optimized fish eater.”

“You see the long narrow snout, the interlocking teeth — this would be similar to what you would see in the ocean today, in a dolphin for instance,” he said.

He gestured to a graphic posted on the display case depicting a rough toothed dolphin which it described as “the analog for the animal in the modern ecosystem.”

Angola Fossils
An artist’s rendering of Angola’s Cretaceous seas 72 million years ago, dominated by many species of large, carnivorous marine reptiles. VOA

Shell-crushing mosasaur

Another great example of diversity within that ancient ecosystem is the hardshell-eating mosasaur, Polcyn said, which preyed on large oysters which were almost a meter (three feet) across.

“They were really big, so to crack an oyster three feet across you needed the dentition and the musculature to do that, and that’s what you see here in these very strange mushroom-shaped teeth that you see in this animal,” Polcyn explained.

Within the same ecosystem was another example of a top predator, the Prognathodon kianda. Its full-scale skeleton on display in the museum is almost eight meters long.

In addition to top predators like the monster-like mosasaur, the exhibit also includes fossils of gentler creatures; small fish and an ancient giant sea turtle.

“We have a snapshot of this moment in time 72 million years ago that has preserved all of these animals that were living together in one place,” Polcyn said.

Angola Fossils
This mosasaur fossil skull shows how its mushroom-shaped teeth were optimized to crack hard-shell prey like giant oysters. VOA

The big dig

Jacobs says the fossil find in Angola was a big deal for a number of reasons:

“First of all because it’s going into a country that never really had a heritage of fossils,” he said. “It basically was unknown at the level that we are opening it up.”

“Fossils,” he says, “instill a sense of pride in what’s in the country, and it provides something to use for education, and it builds science. And the way it builds science is because every country has fossils, so every country has something to offer, so every country is a piece of the puzzle and the Angola piece is now there.”

Michael Polcyn agrees that unearthing this cache of ancient fossils has been a huge breakthrough on a number of fronts.

Also Read: New Artifacts Found in Cairo, Egypt: Archaeologists

“From a purely scientific point of view it gives us an incredible window into an ecosystem 72 million years ago that is relatively complete,” he says. “From a very human point of view this really shows the people of Angola, and the people of the world, what incredible resources we have in our natural environments.”

And lastly, he says, “These fossils are the patrimony of Angola, these are their heritage, and for us to be able to bring them to the Smithsonian and ultimately back to Angola, on a very personal level, is a thrill for us.” (VOA)