Draupadi Amen Temple at Saint Antoine near Goodlands is reputed for the grace showered on devotees whose wishes are fulfilled by praying there
Saint Antoine Sugar Factory has come and gone but Draupadi Amen Kovil stays on. Both were built at nearly the same time in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. The kovil or Dravidian Temple of the Tamilian Sanatanists was a wooden, thatched building. A group of volunteer devotees set up their kovil on the premises of the sugar estate in which they were employed.
Due to religious tolerance, every sugar factory had a Tamil temple erected in the vicinity of the mill. It gave the workers the opportunity to worship God according to their own beliefs and bring prosperity to the estate. Every year prayers were held at the beginning and the end of the harvest period. Only four factories still exist after scores of them have closed down because of centralization and technological advance but the kovils continue to exist although a few of them have been displaced.
The one at Saint Antoine was destroyed by cyclone Carol in 1960. It was rebuilt by the estate authority with iron rails and iron sheets. In 2005, it was erected in concrete according to the colourful Dravidian architecture. The custom is to renovate kovils after every twelve years. This has been done for the Draupadi Amen Temple in 2017. A Maha Kumbh Abhishegum is scheduled for Sunday 9th September. It will be a national event according to Aya Ashagen. Prayers will start on Wednesday and culminate in the Abhishegum of Sunday in the presence of eminent personalities of the country, without forgetting the three members of parliament of the constituency including Minister Ashit Gungah. It is worth noting that the kovil functioned without a permanent priest for decades. Poossarees came to officiate on specific occasions.
It is only since 1985 that the kovil has a full time priest attached to it. His name is Aya Naden. His son, Aya Ashagen, whose full name is Renganaden Mootooveroo, has joined him since 1988. He went to Coimbatore in 1996, India, to study priestcraft for one year. Durga Pooja, Cavadees, monthly katha during full moon night, fire-walking in December and other prayers are celebrated regularly nowadays. They are all well-attended by devotees from all communities at home and even from abroad. This is line with all kovils in Mauritius where non-Tamilians outnumber Tamilians themselves in an impressive number.
Draupadi Amen Temple at Saint Antoine near Goodlands is reputed for the grace showered on devotees whose wishes are fulfilled by praying there. Indeed a great number of people go there throughout the year to improve their lot. Aya Ashagen has had a personal experience in connection with desire fulfillment. His great wish and belief is that he will serve at the kovil after his death when he will take birth again. Two years ago, an old woman turned up at the temple from nowhere, gave an answer to him and went away unnoticed. She told him that in his new life after his passing away, he will return to the same kovil.
Aya Ashagen is convinced that Divine Draupadi herself came to bless him. In fact, the kovil is known for wishes being fulfilled. Sick people, fortune-seekers, even our politicians attend the kovil assiduously. At least one of our senior ministers has been walking on fire there since a quarter of a century. The Maha Abhishegum of Sunday next promises to be eventful.
- Published in print edition on 8 September 2017