Kerala priests against ‘government interference’ in temple matters


Trissur (Kerala) : A panel of Hindu priests that met here Monday to discuss if there was a need to change rules that prevent non-Hindus from entering temples in Kerala, strongly protested the state government's move to frame guidelines on the issue.

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They were reacting to the statement of Devaswom Minister K. Sudhakaran who said the government will soon come out with guidelines after discussing the matter with Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan.

"We register our strong protest in what the minister has said and the government need not interfere in ritualistic matters of temples in Kerala," Sreekumar Thamarapalli, president of the Yogakshema Sabha, told reporters here after the meeting.

The meeting of the Sabha, a body of temple priests and those associated with the affairs of the temples in the state, was held in the aftermath of recent controversies over entry restrictions at the famous Sree Krishna Temple in Guruvayoor.

"We have constituted a five-member 'achara parishad' which would discuss whether it is time for any changes in the tradition to keep up with the changing times. They have been given three months time," added Thamarapalli.

Even as the Sabha meet was on, Sudhakaran told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that he would soon discuss with Achuthanandan to see what can be done to open the doors of the temples to all believers.

His remarks only angered the priests.

A section of the Sabha reportedly proposed that a resolution should be passed that the minister in charge of Devaswoms – the body that looks after the administration of temples in all parts of the state except North Kerala – should be a "devotee of God".

The reference was obviously to Sudhakaran, who is a member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The proposal was dropped after a heated debate.

The famed Guruvayoor temple of late has run into controversies over and Sudhakaran was instrumental in igniting one when he wrote to the temple administrators to see that veteran singer K.J. Yesudas be allowed to sing inside its premises.

Last week, Guruvayoor priests performed a purification ritual after the naming ceremony of Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi's grandson there. Ravi's wife is a Christian.

After the ritual at the temple, many progressive Hindus have argued for a change in entry rules to allow non-Hindus into temples.