Chennai. Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister of the avowedly secular Tamilnadu government Sekar Babu is in for sharp criticism for intruding into affairs of the Hindu religion. He says – 1. People from all castes will be appointed as Archakas (priests) in temples. 2. Archanai in Tamil in all the temples under HR & CE. 3. Hindu women will be trained and appointed as priests in temples.
None of these measures are new. All three are part of the branding game of Dravidian polemics of atheists targeting a particular caste saying that it enjoys the monopoly in the matter of priesthood and temple affairs. In reality the community has little say in these matters.
HR & CE has under it more than 40,000 temples in the state, and in most of the temples the daily pooja/rituals are done by people from all the castes. In many temples the priesthood is “hereditary” or appointed as per traditions/agamas followed for centuries. In 2006 the then DMK Govt in the state, led by Karunanidhi drafted and issued a GO to train and appoint people from all castes of Hindus as priests in temples.
But, many temples in the state have women priests. In some temples exclusively women only are entitled to perform pooja/rituals as per tradition. As such, Hinduism is the only religion that practises no gender/caste discrimination in the appointment of priests in temples.
In the same breath Sekar Babu also claims that Chief Minister Stalin has advised him that the sentiments of no section of people should get hurt in religious matters. All the three issues raised by the Minister resulted in exactly the same – of wounding the religious sentiments of Hindus.
Also, all three are in vogue in Tamilnadu temples, having been implemented by earlier DMK Govts, but have received little/lukewarm response from devotees. Hope the new Govt will take note. Forcing anything down the throats of Hindus is sure to meet with the contempt it deserves. Devout Tamils simply love age-old temple traditions. They spurn disruption of time-tested customs behind the facade of reform.
The media in the state keeps giving prominent coverage for temple land restoration events by HR&CE minister. The case in point is the Vadapalani temple land “restoration”, in Chennai. The restoration of 44 grounds of Ekambareshwar Temple, Kanchipuram. It has been publicized that, as if in a matter of one month in power, the present govt has achieved this. There In fact hundreds of cases filed by Hindu NGOs/activists that earned court verdicts in favour of the petitioners already; but bureaucracy has not implemented the courts orders. These two cases are typical ones.
Over-zealous officials only implemented the verdict/decision now to please the new political boss who are only too willing to join any photo op.
What old timers point out is that today is not 1970/80s and TN people are not amused by these acts of tokenism. “Free Hindu Temples” movement by Jaggi Vasudev of Isha Foundation could rake in the support of more than three crore people. Tamil Hindus want the temples to be released from the clutches of a secular govt which has no business to poke its nose in Hindu temple traditions. The recent Madras HC verdict/directives disposing of the petitions filed by Hindu activists on restoring the temple lands only goes to strengthen the hands of Hindus who want the govt to quit Hindu temple administration.
Let CM Stalin wind up the HR&CE dept and hand over the temple management to Hindu devotees as earlier. Nothing else will please Hindu Tamils of the state.