Temples should be freed from government control

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The Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, known as the center of Sanatana faith and the birth place of Bharatnatyam dance, is once again in the news due to government interference. After the entry of policemen into the temple and the scuffle with the priests came to light last month, the state’s ‘Hindu Dharma Donation Act’ i.e. HRCE Minister P. Shekharbabu has threatened that the state government will take the temple under its control. The Chidambaram temple is the only one of the 38,000 temples in Tamil Nadu that was freed from government possession in 2014 after a long legal battle. The present controversy arose when the Podhu Dikshitar priests of the temple put up a board inside the temple to this effect, barring darshan from the Kanakasabha mandapam on the occasion of Tirumanjanam festival from June 24 to 27. On its complaint, the police entered the temple to remove the board. In protest against the police action, a priest’s clothes were torn and the sacred thread was broken. The incident took place when a special puja was taking place in the temple. The state government claims that it is standing in the interest of the devotees against the arbitrary and discriminatory conduct of the priests. In fact, this whole episode shows the intransigence of the DMK government in the state. Actually, there are religious and practical reasons for the four days for which darshan is stopped from the Kanakasabha stage. This 1,100-year-old tradition has been going on since the establishment of the temple. During this, the priests require this platform for special worship. Recently, the government ordered to provide darshan to all the devotees from the Kanakasabha stage, but the temple management decided to maintain the old tradition. For such a decision, the Dikshitars have the legal basis under which government interference in management has been prohibited by the Supreme Court. It is practically impossible to allow all the devotees to have darshan on this platform during the Aani Tirumanjanam festival because only ten to twelve persons can come on this small platform.

It is natural to question the intention of the mandate, which encroached on tradition and created a critical situation from the point of view of management and system. The insistence on taking over the Chidambaram Nataraja temple, one of the Panchabhoota temples, reflects the malice of Dravidian, especially DMK politics, which is motivated by the maliciousness of anti-Brahmin and anti-Hindu politics. The Dravidian movement has made anti-Brahminism a dominant political sentiment in the state. Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is the only Brahmin managed temple in the entire state. In such a situation, any kind of action on this temple is very easily helpful in capitalizing on anti-Brahmin sentiments. It should be noted that even after the Madras Hindu Dharma Donation Act brought under the British rule, this temple was kept free from government occupation as an establishment of a specific sect. Even in 1951, efforts to bring it under government control were thwarted by the Madras High Court, but in 2009, the temple came under government control under the Karunanidhi government. However, in 2014, the Supreme Court ordered the priest and manager of the temple, Podhu Dikshitar Samaj, to consider them as a very subtle religious sect and keep their religious rights free from government interference. Ever since coming to power two years ago, the DMK government has been trying to usurp the temple administration by adopting different tactics. In the last two years, the HRCE ministry has sent 20 notices for audit to the temple management. The management is ready for third party audit even if there is no legal obligation, but the government is adamant on departmental audit only. HRCE is only after Chidambaram temple by ignoring fifteen lakh audit objections before it. Not only this, they were accused of spreading child marriage and untouchability to defame the Dikshitar group with a population of only 1,400. The situation of government’s intransigence is such that by giving advertisements in the newspaper, complaints have been sought from the people against the temple management. The plight of the temples controlled by HRCE is not hidden from anyone. There are reports of theft of idols, ornaments, sandalwood trees etc. from these temples. Around 1,200 idols have been stolen from temples and 50,000 acres of land has been encroached upon. Thousands of temples have come in dilapidated condition due to lack of repair and maintenance. After 1976 the departmental accounts have not been audited by an external agency. In the name of VIP Darshan, HRCE itself has created a situation of discrimination among the visitors. The attempt by this department, which has become synonymous with temple mismanagement, to take control of other temples is a mockery of the religious sentiments of the Hindu society. With regard to the Chidambaram temple, this intention is an attempt to trample upon the entire existence of the Dikshitars whose lives revolve only around the worship and management of this temple. This controversy only shows that the malicious stubbornness of the power can target Hindu temples anytime. A permanent solution to the problem is possible only when the central government paves the way for not only freeing the temples from government control through a central law by using the powers vested in the concurrent list, but also fixes the period for their temporary acquisition in case of mismanagement. Do.

(The author is a senior columnist and member of the Indic Academy)
, Vikas Saraswat

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