116-year-old temple under threat

Daily prayers and activities at the 116-year-old Reservoir Hills Shree Vishnu Alayam (Umgudulu Road Temple) have been at a standstill since the April floods in 2022, when the road leading to the property collapsed partially

The original temple that was built 116 years ago

Published Feb 9, 2024

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Daily prayers and activities at the 116-year-old Reservoir Hills Shree Vishnu Alayam (Umgudulu Road Temple) have been at a standstill since the April floods in 2022, when the road leading to the property collapsed partially.

In addition, the temple has become a soft target for criminals, incurring more than hundreds of thousands rand in losses, including the theft of a brass Lord Nataraja, the lord of dance, statue worth about R100 000.

The temple, which is situated along Whittaker Avenue, is also in the midst of the M19 informal settlement.

Devotees, who started a Save Our Temple steering committee, said their efforts to get the eThekwini Municipality to repair the road have proven futile.

Dhevarathnum Reddy, the temple’s senior priest, said since the collapse of the road, devotees had opted to not visit the temple.

He is a member of the pioneer family that built the original temple, which still stands over the premises.

“Following the first flood in 2022, we had more heavy rains including recently, which caused the road to erode more and become narrower. A walkway, which was also built leading from the road over a river for the informal residents, is no longer accessible.

“We no longer have devotees visiting the temple as they are afraid to drive across what is left of the road as it continues to collapse more every day. We used to have many devotees come to pray with their children every Saturday. Now there is no one.

“We no longer have any of the big prayers such as Purtassi, Maha Shivaratri and Kavady. For Kavady, we used to have more than 300 people at the temple, but we have not been able to have any festivities for almost two years,” he said.

Reddy said the temple relied on donations from the devotees for the upkeep of the temple including paying the utility bill, and for security.

“Our alarm system was stolen and we were unable to replace it. Criminals come in through the ceilings, and have stolen the electricity cables, industrial fans, air conditioners, a solar water heater, copper pipes and taps. They also stole all the brass chumboos and degs (large pot) which we used for cooking during the big prayers, and the Lord Nataraja statue which will cost about R100 000 to replace as it was imported.

“We also cannot afford to put burglar guards. It is depressing to see the temple deteriorate day-by-day. It is also hurtful as many of us grew up in this temple. While we thought about closing the temple’s doors, how can we when it has so much history? All we are asking is for the road to be fixed, so that devotees can return,” he said.

The eThekwini Municipality did not comment at the time of publication.

THE POST

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Floods