The Yogashema Sabha — the apex body of priests, tantris (high priests) and other Brahmin and Namboodiri bodies — on Monday asked the Left Front government not to interfere with the customs and traditions of temples. It was referring to Temple Affairs Minister G. Sudhakaran’s statement the same day that the government would consider a legislation to allow all believers, including non-Hindus, to worship in temples.
The sabha met in Thrissur in the wake of the controversy over the purification rite at the Guruvayur temple after a visit by Union minister Vayalar Ravi and his family. It decided to begin the process for a second temple entry proclamation. (Through a similar proclamation in 1936, the Maharaja of Travancore had abolished the ban on ‘untouchables’ entering the temple).
But sources said “the untimely utterances of the minister turned the course of the talks, which was proceeding on a positive note”. The sabha felt that a government that did not subscribe to Hindu beliefs had no role in this.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Rahul Eswar, grandson of the Sabarimala tantri who took the initiative for the conclave, said around 80 per cent of the members favoured reforms in tune with the changing times. “The majority of them agreed to the reforms known as the ‘Second Temple Entry Proclamation’. The meeting decided to initiate dialogue and debate for this,” he said.
Rahul also said that Sudhakaran, who did not believe in temple customs and belief, had no role to play in this. “The government will bring in a law after consulting all concerned. It feels all believers have to be allowed darshan in temples,” he said.
The sources quoted participants at the meeting as saying: “What business do the Marxists, who are known atheists, have to fiddle with our customs?” Some members even demanded the minister’s resignation for hurting Hindu sentiments.
The Guruvayur temple had performed a punyaham after the visit of Ravi’s son Ravikrishna, triggering a fresh debate on the entry of non-Hindus into the temple. Temple authorities had reasoned that the rite was needed as Ravikrishna’s mother came from a Christian family. After the row had intensified, the tantri of the temple, Chenas Raman Namboodiriadpad, had even clarified that the rite was done under existing laws. But, he had said that the priests would not mind reforms in the centuries-old customs.
On his part, Ravi expressed opposition to the government’s proposed legislation. “The government cannot get into matters of faith. It cannot go beyond a certain point. Administration of temples is okay, but it cannot decide on faith,” he was quoted as saying by PTI. However, Ravi said his case was entirely different as he was a Hindu and his son had been brought up as a Hindu.