Christian marriage in Chennai Temple hall: Violation of protocols by secular state?

The sad state of the ancient temples of Bharat under the control of the secular state is known to many. Incidents of corruption in temples managed by secular government have become a matter of common occurrence in the last few decades. But recently, many incidents of breaking the practices of worship at temples has taken the situation to an alarming level, as the temples are in the danger of losing their sanctity and becoming tourist spots.

Recently, one of the ancient temples dedicated to Bhagwan Vishnu in the Mylapore suburb of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, known as the Madhava Perumal Temple allegedly saw a Christian wedding taking place in the marriage hall owned by the temple, adjacent to the temple premises. The incident took place on 7th March 2017 when huge loudspeakers were placed in the marriage hall, disturbing the devotees of the temple who had come there to pray with a peaceful mind.

When contacted, locals living in the area surrounding the temple also alleged that wine and non-vegetarian food were served in the temple hall, breaking the temple protocols as even onions are deemed unfit to be used for cooking in Vishnu temples, as per the Saatvik diet prescribed by the aagamaas (religious scriptures) for preparation of prasaada in Vishnu temples.

They also accused that the temple authorities gave them a very rude response when questioned about this act of injustice breaking the temple protocols, which paved the way for a heated argument between the temple authorities and the devotees.

Argument between the worried local devotees and the temple authorities regarding this incident

HinduPost contacted the temple authorities to understand their view of the allegations by local devotees. We spoke to Mr. Sarvanna Kumar, the Executive Officer of the HRCE controlled temple. He said that the couple who got married were SC (Dalit) Hindus and even though the groom’s name was indeed displayed as ‘Charles’, his real name was ‘Yuvraj’ with ‘Charles’ being his pet-name.

The officer claimed that all allegations about temple sanctity being violated was just a conspiracy by ‘Brahmin vested interests’. He also said that the HRCE rules do not prohibit use of temple-owned ‘commercial property’, such as the marriage hall, by non-Hindus.

Notable Tamil actor and dramatist Sri. S. Ve. Shekher, who is also a localite living in Mylapore, in his Facebook post wrote about this incident and also stated that he has taken this incident to the notice of the HRCE Commissioner. Various Hindus across the state of Tamil Nadu have been expressing their concern over this incident on social media, and an email written by a devotee who visited the temple that day, asking for the help of Hindu organisations, has been widely circulating on social media.

Email of a devotee asking for the help of Hindu organisations in the matter

While the truth of the matter requires further investigation, the evidence at hand and weak explanation offered by the temple Executive Officer, suggest that the spontaneous protests by local Hindu devotees of Mylapore are not misplaced.

The following chart prepared by Temple Worshippers Society, a group working to reclaim Hindu temples, illustrates how Governments target only Hindu religious institutions.

Religious Institutions Hindu Muslim Christian
1. Scope of Religious Endowments Acts Like  Tamil Nadu Act of 1959 and A.P. Act of 1987 All Institutions including Temples, Mutts and Endowments Only Trusts and Endowments. Places of worship i.e. Mosques are not included. No Acts or legislations to regulate or control Christian Institutions or Trusts
2. Executive Officer Appointed by the Commissioner who is a Servant of the Government Appointed by non-Government Wakf Board No such appointments
3. Status of Executive Officer Government Servant Non-Government Person alone can be appointed No such appointments
4. Powers under the Acts General Superintendence and control of Temples, Mutts, endowments and their properties. Can Supervise only Wakf properties None
5. Religious Matters High level of interference in Hindu religious matters including daily poojas Interference in religious matters specifically prohibited None

The secular state has taken control of the temples of Bharat citing corruption and requirement for reforms, in order to improve the comfort level of the devotees visiting the temple, as the major reasons. But contradicting this claim, the government has been involved in practices affecting the sanctity of the temple and breaking the temple protocols. The greed of the government makes it view temples as a cash cow, rather than as a sacred place of worship.

It is high time for us to reconsider the presence of the secular state in our temples, in order to preserve the heritage given to us as a gift by our ancestors.

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Yato dharmas tato jayah... Tweets at @paanchajanyaa