A. SANKARARAMAN, who was the manager of the Sri Varadarajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram and was in his 50s, fell victim to a well-planned murder. According to reports in Tamil magazines, on September 3, at around 4-45 p.m. six men riding on three motorcycles arrived at his house in Kancheepuram. They told his wife that they wanted to meet Sankararaman for performing a puja in the temple for the new motorcycle they had bought. His unsuspecting wife told them that he was in the temple. "I laid the route for my husband's death," she said later, overcome with remorse.
The six men soon reached the temple. Two or three of them stood outside its sprawling premises and the others went in. The temple office is situated in one of the mantapas and Sankararaman had a cabin there. Sankararaman sat in his chair sipping tea. According to an eyewitness, the phone in the office rang and one of the employees answered it. As the caller wanted to speak to Sankararaman, he got up and walked the few steps to the phone, but even as he asked who was calling, the caller hung up. Sankararaman resumed his seat and started scrutinising the temple accounts.
A few minutes later, two or three men barged into his cabin and hacked him with hatchets from behind. He suffered a deep crack on the head, a split ear-lobe and deep gashes on the neck. Sankararaman raised an alarm before collapsing on the floor. An eyewitness said that one of the members of the gang apparently made the phone call on a mobile phone to satisfy himself that Sankararaman was there.
The news of the murder shocked Kancheepuram and the entire State. Sankararaman's father was closely associated with the Paramacharya. Sankararaman had been an employee of Sri Varadarajaswamy temple for the past 25 years and was elevated as its manager a few years ago. He was reportedly a stickler for rules and was strict about the maintenance of the temple's accounts. When jewels including a gold chain, a diamond "thirumangalyam" of the "Thayar" (goddess) and two gold coins disappeared in 2003 and 2004, he suspended two employees. He gave a police complaint about the theft of the diamond "thirumangalyam", though its donor promised that he would give another.
He took up other temple issues too. He was tough in collecting revenues from the lessees of the temple land. When the lease for two coconut groves of the temple expired in June 2003 and the lessee, a local DMK leader, wanted it renewed for himself, Sankararaman decided to invite an open tender. When the DMK leader pressed for the lease, the manager quoted rules to say that he had to pay 10 per cent extra money. This led to a stand-off between the two.
On another occasion, when a priest of the temple went to the United States to visit his daughter, Sankararaman deprived him of his job on the premise that "archakas" should not travel abroad, crossing the seas. The priest got back the job after four years. He had even antagonised shopkeepers near the temple.