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Cong leader wants non-Hindus’ entry into Kerala temples

| | Kochi | in Sunday Pioneer

Senior Congress leader Ajay Tharayil, a member of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) which administers over 1,200 temples in Kerala, has triggered a public debate in the State with his demand that non-Hindus be permitted to enter temples coming under the board.

However, TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said that a decision could not be taken on this matter unilaterally while State Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, in charge of temple affairs, said the demand had no contemporary relevance and would only lead to unnecessary controversies.

Through a Facebook post, Ajay Tharayil called for an amendment to be brought to the order issued by the Devaswom Board in 1952 which stipulated that entry would be allowed into temples under the board only to Hindus and that non-Hindus would have to declare in writing their belief in Hindu faith.

“It is intended that a new order should be issued by incorporating an amendment that anybody who believes in temple worship methods and system of deity-worship can enter temples. When a non-Hindu gives a declaration saying he believes in Hindu faith, it is indirect conversion,” Ajay said in his Facebook post, adding that it was not the TDB’s job to promote conversion.

“This is not a thinking that dawned on me all of a sudden. I have been thinking of this for a long time. It is a fact that non-Hindus who believe in temple worship methods have been offering worship at temples with or without the knowledge of the temple authorities. The board’s 1952 order loses its relevance in this context,” Ajay told the media.

However, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran of the CPI(M) alleged that Tharayil was whipping up an unnecessary debate on an issue that did not even exist. “I have no knowledge of any temple in Kerala – apart from the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayur – that denies entry to non-Hindus. I haven’t heard of any temple demanding declaration of faith,” he added.

“There could be a TDB order of 1952 but we should remember that there is a huge difference in matters of 1952 and of 2017.  Still, if there is need for any change in the order of 1952, that can be considered,” the Minister said, while former Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran said Tharayil was making such statements “just for publicity”.

Refusing to respond directly to Ajay Tharayil’s demand and Minister Kadakampally’s reaction to it, a senior priest with close connections with the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayur said, “Methods of worship and rules regarding conduct at Hindu temples are very complex. Common people may not know much about it. But I am not against reforms.”

Stating that the TDB would discuss Tharayil’s proposal at its meeting on Wednesday, Prayar Gopalakrishnan said, “It is a fact that non-Hindus are offering worship at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. But every temple has unique Tantric rules and these have to be taken into account before taking any decision on matters like this.”

Prayar told newsmen in Thiruvananthapuram that discussions with prominent priests, other Devaswom Boards in the State and the Government were necessary on this matter. “Nobody has the right to make changes in the Tantric rules of temples. However, the proposal could be considered if there is consensus,” he added.

State BJP president Kummanam Rajasekharan said that it was up to Hindu outfits to take a stand on the proposal of Ajay Tharayil. “There are outfits like the Temple Protection Committee and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Let them take a stand. The BJP does not want to offer any comment on this,” said Kummanam.

A VHP functionary expressed surprise at the demand raised by the Congress leader. “Why is he making such a proposal at this time when there is no pending issue on this front? As far as we know, nobody from any other religion had raised any complaint in this regard at this juncture. We will think of his proposal when it comes up in a formal manner,” he said.




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