Swamimalai lamp took three months to complete the 3-ft tall ‘Gnanavel Vilakku’.
Kamatchi vilakkus (lamps originally made with the image of goddess Kamatchi and later made with the image of goddess Lakshmi) are typically portable and about six inches tall.
But the Pathumalai Murugan temple in the Batu Caves in Selangor, Malaysia, is going to have a three-foot tall Gnanavel Vilakku featuring instead a vel (spear, the deity’s sacred weapon) in the same style.
“It took us three months to make it. The lamp weighs 110 kg and can hold 50 litres of oil. It has been crafted at a cost of ₹4.5 lakh,” said Srikantan, son of the late Devasenapathy Sthapathi of Swamimalai, who made it along with his brothers Radhakrishna and Swaminathan. The lamp is expected to burn day and night in front of the sanctum of the temple.
Mr. Srikantan Sthapathi said they had followed the old ‘lost wax process’ for making the lamp. In this, a wax model covered with alluvial soil from the Cauvery river, which flows past Swamimalai, is dried in the sun and then baked to remove the wax through a hole.
The hollowed model is filled with bronze, which is chiselled and polished to perfection. The Gnanavel Vilakku has been crafted with 82% copper, 15% brass, 3% lead and a small amount of silver and gold.
“In Malaysia, the vel is worshipped by Tamils and we have designed the lamp to give prominence to the weapon. We have also decorated the vilakku with the images of a peacock and a rooster [iconography also associated with the deity],” said Mr. Srikantan.
He said his father had similarly customised a lamp for the Rajarajeswari temple in Delhi, with an image of the shrine’s deity, based on a request by the late pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt, Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal.>