Hey guys, while driving through the busy roads of Chennai city, I saw something very strange. There was a small temple which has plenty of new vehicles parked all around it. Look ,these are brand new vehicles, probably just bought today. Why are these cars and motorcycles parked in front of this temple? What is the name of the deity inside? His name is Bodyguard Muneeswaran, I am serious this is the actual name of the deity, and this temple is also called Bodyguard Muneeswaran temple, you can see it on the sign board.
Why would a Hindu God be called “Bodyguard Muneeswaran”, how can it have the English prefix Bodyguard attached to it? What is the story behind this? I have never seen anything like this, so I decided to go into the temple and see what was happening. Even though this is a very small temple, it is one of the most crowded temples in the city, I am told it is always full of people. There are no fabulous carvings or pillars, in fact the roof is made of modern materials. This temple is no more than a 100 years old.
Inside, there is an extremely small chamber which houses a very small statue. It is a manly figure with a large moustache. The idol is about one foot tall and is enclosed within a simple metal gate. This is the famous “Body Guard Muneeswaran”.
The main priest here does not perform the usual rituals held in other temples, this priest does something very unique. He will ask for your vehicle keys. The keys of your cars or motorcycles must be given to the priest. He collects the keys from everyone and puts them at the feet of “Bodyguard Muneeswaran.” And each vehicle owner must also give a lemon and this lemon has a unique purpose, which I will show you in a minute. The priest will now ask you to pray for an accident free life. People believe that body guard Muneeswaran not only protects the vehicle’s body but the human body as well.
Is this the end of the rituals? No, these are the rituals for the deity, but there are other rituals for your vehicles. Let us step outside and look at these rituals. There are 2nd level priests, who are posted outside. This is what they do, they take a coconut and then place a piece of camphor on top of it. The camphor is then lit and is rotated in front of the vehicle several times to ward off any evil. Now he must go around the vehicle and then the coconut is smashed open , followed by some more rotations. Then the owner or the mother of the owner gets blessed by the priest. The driver gets a sacred thread tied to his wrist, which will always give him good control of the steering wheel. The 2nd level priest would get a small donation from the devotees. Depending on the size of your donation, your car may get some smearing of sandal paste, and also a flower garland. Some people believe that tying these black ropes will save you from accidents. Lemons will be put in front of the tire and all your enemies and evil eyes will be completely squashed, like the lemon, when the vehicle starts.
If you can’t afford the donation, you can do the rituals yourself. Some people come here every day on full moon and then rotate a pumpkin in front of their vehicle to remove the evil eye effect. Finally the pumpkin will be broken in front of the vehicle to have an accident free life.
So, you can see that this is a very unique temple with a unique name and a unique set of rituals. But what is the story behind this deity and the temple? How could a Hindu God have the English term bodyguard attached to it?
Today, almost everyone believes that this deity has the prefix Bodyguard because he acts as a personal bodyguard to save your life, like a guardian angel. Even the priests do not know how this name has become attached to the deity. But this was not a satisfactory answer to me, so I walked around, trying to find more information. And I found something quite interesting on the same road. There is something called a Bodyguard’s Mosque.
This is really weird because while Hindus are traditionally flexible with their religion, Muslims are not. So, how could they name a mosque as “Bodyguard’s mosque”. Upon closer inspection, I found something even more interesting. The name of the mosque is called “Governor’s Bodyguard Mosque”.
This is fantastic information, because the name Governor’s Bodyguard actually refers to the cavalry, a group of soldiers who were stationed here during British time to protect the Governor. So the Governors bodyguards actually lived here for many years. I found out that the name of this road, which is now renamed as Pallavan Salai, was originally called Bodyguard Lines Road during the time of the British.
Hindu temples are always prefixed with the name of the place to make it easy to identify the location of the temple. This is originally why this temple was called Bodyguard Muneeswaran temple, because it is located on Bodyguard Lines Road and Muneeswaran is a popular deity in South India who has been worshipped for more than a 1000 years. This temple was named Bodyguard Muneeswaran temple merely as a landmark. However, in the last 50 years, people have completely forgotten why this name has come about. And they have created all sorts of myths and legends around it.
Even Wikipedia shows that someone got into an accident a 100 years ago after disrespecting the deity, which is why this name has been given, but there are no references to support this claim, the links are dead. When this temple was initiated, it was merely a temple for the God Muneeswaran. However, in the last 50 years, when the road’s name got changed and when people began getting “civilized”, they started to attribute various superstitions to the prefix bodyguard.
People started believing that this deity would act as a personal bodyguard as a guardian angel. Some people believe he protects the bodies of vehicles from getting damaged. Now, this belief has spread all over the city. Every person must come here immediately after buying a new vehicle. And if you have repeated accidents, you need to come here and get his blessings, this will remove any curses or black magic spells.
There is even a small shop inside the temple now. It sells Country Cigars, which are bought by devotees and offered to the deity. There are custom made items created to hang in front of your vehicle to safeguard you. These big black ropes must be hung in front of the car to protect you, etc. But the truth is, this is the age old deity Muneeswaran, simply placed on the old Bodyguard Lines Road.