‘Current system may continue’: SC allows families of priests to run Kamakhya temple | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

‘Current system may continue’: SC allows families of priests to run Kamakhya temple

Nov 17, 2023 05:46 AM IST

Doloi Samaj is satisfactorily managing the affairs of the temple, the bench on November 10 recorded from the state’s affidavit

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has approved the administration of Guwahati’s Kamakhya temple by the Bordeuri Samaj – families of priests that traditionally ran the temple for over a hundred years – as it took on record the Assam government’s assurance regarding proper management of the temple affairs and infrastructure development of the area in a “big way” so as to improve the pilgrimage experience for devotees visiting one of India’s most important centres of Shakti cult.

Kamakhya Temple is one of the key centres of Shakti cult. (PTI)
Kamakhya Temple is one of the key centres of Shakti cult. (PTI)

Taking on record the affidavits filed by the Assam government, a bench of justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal okayed the administration and day-to-day affairs of the temple by the Bordeuri Samaj, which the state submitted, was being carried out suitably.

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“Doloi Samaj is satisfactorily managing the affairs of the temple in close coordination with the local administration and the current system may continue,” the bench on November 10 recorded from the state’s affidavit, further noting that following a meeting chaired by Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in August to discuss the development of the Maa Kamakhya Corridor and related aspects, it was decided that the Doloi Samaj should continue running the affairs of the temple administration.

Families of the priests of the main temple call themselves Bordeuris, while families of the priests of subsidiary temples are known as Deuris. The head priest of Kamakhya is called Doloi. The Doloi is elected by members of the Bordeuri Samaj and other priests who run the other nine temples in the Nilachal Hills (on which Kamakhya stands). Following the election held in 2021, Kabindra Prasad Sarma currently holds the post of the head priest (Doloi).

In its order, the top court further recorded that the government of Assam is taking the development activities of Maa Kamakhya Temple, under the PM DevINE Scheme, which contemplates a dedicated corridor to develop infrastructure and tourism facilities around the temple complex in Guwahati. As announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April this year, the corridor project includes construction of a new road, a ropeway, a food park and a helipad among other infrastructure facilities.

“We take on record the assurance of the state government that it is taking up development activities of Maa Kamakhya Temple in a big way under the PM-DevINE Scheme. The said assurance shall be abided by the state government in its true letter and spirit,” the court order said. The state government was represented by state’s advocate general Devajit Saikia and advocate Shuvodeep Roy.

The bench was hearing a petition against the orders passed by the Gauhati high court in 2015 and 2017, directing the deputy commissioner (Kamrup) to receive the donations given by the devotees for the development activities of the Kamakhya temple.

“The impugned orders (of the high court) need not operate now, and we direct that instead of the impugned orders, what is recorded in the aforesaid affidavits of the state government and the prevailing arrangement of managing the affairs of temple shall continue,” held the bench while disposing of the petition.

The right to manage the Kamakhya temple witnessed a long power struggle in the 1990s when a rival group comprising individuals from the families of the priests, as well as representatives of sections who have traditionally not had a role in running the temple, formed the Kamakhya Debuttar Board, which took over the rights and privileges of the Bordeuri Samaj. While the Bordeuri Samaj alleged that the Debutter Board had manipulated its way to power in 1998, the board said they stepped in because the Samaj was running the temple in an “undemocratic” manner.

By an interim order in 2012, the Supreme Court split responsibilities at Kamakhya, asking the Debuttar Board to run the temple administration, while restricting the role of dolois (priests) to religious activities. Finally, in July 2015, the Supreme Court restored the traditional rights of the Bordeuri Samaj while directing that periodical elections to the post of chief priest and other posts must be conducted.

In October 2022, the top court remarked that the temple was not being maintained properly, adding there should not be any compromise on the hygiene standards in the place of worship. At the time, the state government as well as the Doloi Samaj had assured the court that hygiene as well as infrastructure development around the temple complex were being taken up on priority.

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