A tiny village deep in Tiruvanamalai district has become the newest pilgrimage site for the Hindus in Tamil Nadu. For over a month now, Korakottai, home to about 400 households, has witnessed hundreds of people thronging its narrow streets. They are coming to see Perumal Salai, or the God Rock.

At the end of a mud road lined with brambles in Korakottai lie two giant charnockite rocks propped up on piles of stone slabs and wooden logs. On the bigger rock, 66 feet long, is sculpted the Hindu god Vishnu. The smaller 30-foot-long rock is to be sculpted into a seven-headed snake that will be placed on Vishnu’s head. The two monoliths, one weighing 380 tonnes and the other 260 tonnes, will eventually be taken to the Kothandaramaswamy Temple in Bengaluru, more than 300 km away. Together, the rocks will form a nearly 100-foot statue of the deity.

It all began with a doctor’s dream. B Sadanand, the main trustee of the temple, had long harboured the desire to carve a statue for the shrine that is unlike any in the world. “We have been looking for single rocks but finding them is extremely difficult,” the physician told The Hindu. “My earlier attempt to make the statue failed after the rock cracked at 47 feet.”

Devotees worship the God Rock. Photo credit: Vinita Govindarajan

Sadanand found a small rocky hillock in Korakottai through satellite imagery, and secured the Tamil Nadu government’s permission to cut and transport the rocks to Karnataka. For the past two years, stone-cutting machines have been grinding away at the rocks and chiselling out the deity’s statue.

Now, Sadanand’s plan faces roadblocks, literally and figuratively. The giants rocks, which were scheduled to be moved a month ago, have remained in the village.

The rocks are to be transported to Bengaluru, over 300 km away. Photo credit: Vinita Govindarajan

Hard task

Over the past month, efforts to move the rocks have proved futile. Two lorries, one of which had 160 wheels and the other 90 wheels, could not take the weight of the bigger rock. “The lorry had been placed underneath the rocks but could not lift it up,” said G Manikandan, a resident of Korakottai who witnessed the event. “The tyres of the lorry gave way under the weight.” More than 100 men had been engaged to load the rocks onto the trucks, The Times of India reported.

Rumours are rife in the village that soon a 250-wheeled lorry would be shipped in from abroad to transport the God Rock. Even then, the rocks have to be carried through the village’s narrow roads to the highway. “The plan was to move it for 15 km every day,” said the tehsildar Murugan. “Roads will be suitably widened wherever necessary.”

Asked if the rocks could damage the houses along the road, Murugan said it would not be an issue. However, Munikrishnan, a resident of the neighbouring taluk, disagrees.

Hundreds of pilgrims have visited Korakottai over the past month. Photo credit: Vinita Govindarajan

Munikrishnan has filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Madras High Court, pointing out that transporting the rocks on public roads and highways would put the safety of villagers and other passersby at risk. Moreover, he argued, since the rocks were found in Korakottai, they belonged to the Tamil Nadu government. The petition came up in the court on July 7 but the hearing on it was adjourned to July 28.

Murugan, however, pointed out that “permission from the government has already been secured for the transportation of the rocks.”

Contacted by Scroll.in, Sadanand, the trustee of the temple, refused to comment on his until the legal issues are resolved.

Prayers being performed at the God Rock. Photo credit: Vinita Govindarajan

Unexpected blessing

Meanwhile, residents of Korakottai and neighbouring villages have been busy. Many have set up food and drink stalls around the rock to cater to the pilgrims. “Yesterday, the place was packed with people coming to see the deity,” said M Raghupati of Thellar, a village about 3 km from Korakottai. He was selling water bottles, camphor, incense sticks and turmeric near the rocks. “Business is doing very well,” he said, smiling.

The head of the God Rock is smeared with red and yellow hand prints of devotees, and names of some of the pilgrims are scribbled in turmeric. Coconuts are broken and holy fires lit. Several pilgrims climb the hillock beside the rocks for a better view of the freshly sculpted god, others throw coins onto the statue.

“We do not think our saami will move from here,” said S Indira Gandhi, a resident of Korakottai. “Any number of lorries may come and go, but our God will not leave us.”