These women come from varied backgrounds but have a single goal – to work as Odhuvars in Saivite temples and to be in the service of the deities by singing their praise through the pathigams. The women – C. Sivaranjani, M. Gomathi, Charumathi Keeran, M. Dharani, and Bhargavi Kamalakkannan – said they did not expect to be recruited for the job despite having trained in the Thirumurai and music.
Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) P.K. Sekarbabu on Monday handed over appointment orders to 15 Odhuvars, of which five were women and have been appointed to temples in the Chennai region. “In the last 28 months, 10 women Odhuvars have been appointed in various temples, and it has been made possible due to Chief Minister M. K. Stalin giving a free hand to the department to function. Odhuvars are a must in Saivite temples. They have to sing from the Thirumurai during each puja and also during special functions and festivals. I am happy to see women who have trained specially to be in the service of the deities,” he said, adding that of 187 vacant Odhuvar posts in the temples, 107 had been filled.
Ms. Keeran, the mother of two children and wife of a panchayat president of Keerapalayam, near Chidambaram, who joined duty at the Siddhi Buddhi Vinayakar temple in Royapettah, said she had studied the Thevaram course at Annamalai University by chance. “It was another candidate, Dharani, who showed me the way. When I was working as a business development officer at a local gramin bank, I went to the Chidambaram temple regularly. I heard Dharani singing there and asked her where she learnt the skill. Though the university told me I was overage (she is now 42) initially, they eventually approved my application. I will move to Chennai and work hard,” she said.
Ms. Kamalakkannan, who has an MBA in finance and has been working as an accountant, said she found her calling as a child when she found a Shiva Lingam. “I will join the Thiruvalleeswarar temple in Padi, where I started singing as a child,” she said.
Jagathrakshaki Kalyani and Su. Suhanjana Gopinath, who have been serving as Odhuvars for a year-and-a-half and two years respectively, said they had been able to sustain in their jobs thanks to the support of their families. “I used to sing from the Thirumurai from a young age and some relatives used to make fun of me and if I was planning to become Avvaiyar. But, to me this job is very precious since I used to yearn to sing to the deities from my childhood,” said a visibly moved Ms. Kalyani, who has been working at the Vedapureeswarar temple in Thiruverkadu.
Ms. Gopinath, who has been working at the Dhenupureeswarar temple, said though she had gone to learn Carnatic music at the Karur Music College, she was advised to learn the Thirumurai by a senior in the college. “My teacher told us to keep our trust in the Thirumurai, and today, those songs have lead me to my job, through which I can serve the Lord,” she said.