There are 3 more temples I need to talk about to give you the whole picture. Some people living on the road- the man used to take loads on his tip, attached to a cycle, with his shaggy dog of indeterminate but cute breed[ of this more later- its got material for a full blog] and the women were rag pickers. They lived on the pavement and in a bid to avoid eviction, they built a temple to Amman, which in course of time was adopted by a local “political” and acquired a mandap of sorts, just painted and decorated with red stripes, common to all temples. For about a decade, they did manage to avoid eviction but eventually, commerce won, the temple stayed and they had to go, though an itinerant vendor of chaat seems to have taken up residence in the corner, with his family.
The other Amman temple in the opposite corner was completely innocuous until the police quarters and the local boys club adopted it. Suddenly last year, the idol grew to about three feet on a high pedestal and acquired awe inspiring colors of red etc. A gaana concert was arranged on the street which my kids enjoyed.
A third temple grew in competition with the old Amman temple, probably as a result of a falling out among the trustees in regard to sharing the collection. So now the slum has two celebrations but this new temple is no match for the old one which is hoary and older residents remember times when only one festival, the Chitirai festival was conducted with priests from the village and folk artists.
A major fracas was caused some years ago[ at the dawn of the millennium] when the Church acquired some members, die hard firewalkers until then. Somehow, cordial relations were restored and the next year, I saw the firewalkers back in the fold in their yellow and red sarees. However, a new custom has been inaugurated since those times- the Christians take out a procession, at the time of the Chitirai festival and we are treated to carols and hymns in Tamil over the loudspeaker and a small group, dressed in their best, takes out the idols from the local shrine[ which sprang up at the same time] for an airing. Sometimes, all this coincides with the muezzin’s call from the big mosque at the end of the street.
There is a big Jain temple, filled with beautiful idols, which for a long time was the tallest landmark, until it and everything else for about a mile was dwarfed by the Accord Hotel.There is also a Sikh temple where free food is served on Sundays. Our neighbourhood- a microsm of India.
A while ago, I read a book about the importance of Hindu temples in the community and economy. Looks like this social function persists to this day.