Sabarimala ‘purification’ triggers row

The closing of the Sabarimala temple for purification rituals following the entry of two women of menstruating age on Wednesday has cast the Tantri of the shrine in the spotlight. It has triggered an acrimonious war of words between various quarters over religious tradition and law. Tantri (chief priest) Kandararu Rajeevararu closed the sanctum sanctorum at 10.35 a.m. for performing the purification rites in the wake of the official confirmation on the entry of two young women to the Ayyappa temple. The rites came to a close and darshan was resumed by 11.25 a.m. Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president A. Padmakumar said the Tantri had performed the rituals without obtaining the board’s consent. However, the Tantri told The Hindu that he had told the TDB president over phone that the purification rites would have to be done. Mr. Rajeevararu said he had discussed the matter with Devaswom executive officer D. Sudheeshkumar, who was present on the occasion. “Being the chief priest, I am duty-bound to follow the ritualistic practices at Sabarimala,” he said. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said Mr. Rajeevararu had no legal mandate to close the shrine on his own as per the manual of the TDB. The TDB, a public entity, owned the temple not the Tantri or the former ruling family of Pandalam. Only the TDB could order the closure of the temple. The Tantri was but an employee. “Anyway the Tantri has violated the Supreme Court order and the TDB manual. Let him answer to the apex court,” he said. Chennithala’s stance Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the State-sponsored entry of women was a trespass against Ayyappa faith. “Non-believers have conspired to destroy faith. The Tantri had acted aptly,” he said. Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said the government would face a backlash for “the assault on Hindu faith.” Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the Tantri’s decision was “provocative” and tantamount to contempt of the SC. By closing the sanctum sanctorum the Tantri has challenged the verdict that granted unrestricted entry for all women. General secretary of the Nair Service Society G. Sukumaran Nair thanked the Tantri for having closed the temple for purification.

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