Thursday 21 June 2007
Source: Central Chronicle.
In Hinduism, the norms controlled by Brahmanism are more rigid than the one’s around Shramanic traditions like Bhakti, Nath, Siddha etc. Amongst Muslims also the pattern amongst Shias and Sunnis is not the same. Parsi fire temples display a prominent board banning non-Parsis to enter their temple- Ram Puniyani
On June 11 2007 the Guruvayur temple trust issued an apology for the purification ritual carried out by them, in the aftermath of the visit of Vyalar Ravi with his family to the temple. The purification was performed to cleanse the temple as Mr. Ravi’s wife Mercy is a Christian.
In this temple the ones from other religions are not permitted, as the purity pollution is strongly adhered to. In the apology it said that since Mr. Ravi’s son Krishna is a Hindu, so performing the purification ritual was a mistake. On the heels of this the minister for temple affairs of Kerala is planning to come up with a law to ensure that all those born in Hindu families are permitted to the temples.
The Minister along with his whole family had come to perform chorronu ceremony (ceremonial rice feeding of the infant) for his grandson. The chairman of the board of the temple said that the verdict of the tantri is final. Of course he also pointed out that though temple entry is banned for non-Hindus traditionally, we should change with time. Tantri’s son in a press conference said that though this norm should not be violated, if the Government comes forward and makes a law about this they will let the non-Hindus come to the temple.
Temple entry has been an important part of social reform movement. While this case in particular belongs to non-Hindu, the major battle fought by social reformers has been about the entry of dalits to the temple. During freedom movement when many a social movement breaking the hegemony of upper caste and against patriarchal norms were going on, the struggle for dalits’ right to education, temple entry and the struggle for women’s right to education were the major challenges. In 1920s two major such movements for temple entry were the one of Kalaram temple in Nashik and the other was the one in Viakom, where Periyar Ramasamy Naicker took the lead. Gurvayur temple was also in the news seventy five years ago, when the issue was entry of untouchables to the temple and that of permitting them to use the road crossing in front of this temple.
The lead given by leaders like Ambedkar and Periyar, was taken up by other major national leaders. Mahatma Gandhi registered the dalits plight and went on to initiate moves to appeal to upper caste Hindus to eradicate untouchability in all sincerity, to respect the then untouchables on equal footing. He himself commingled with dalits in a genuine way. While there are many criticisms of Gandhi’s approach to the dalit issue, one thing is sure, he was addressing the upper caste, appealing to their conscience to overcome the age old practices and mind-set.
For pioneers like Ambedkar, this temple entry was a symbolic one as he realized that the Hinduism as practiced broadly, the major assertive form of it, is a Brahminic theology and it cannot have respectable place for his people, the low caste. That’s why he declared that he was born a Hindu, that was not in his hands but he will not die as a Hindu. He embraced Buddhism in 1956 along with many of his followers in due course. The same trend is visible even today with mass conversion ceremonies being organized by various dalit groups.
The reform in the temple norms could not go beyond a point. Many an ideologues did call for temple entry for all. In the prevalent social situation, the absence of proper land reforms sustains the hold of Brahmincal norms and landlordism, the twin pillars of pre modern India.
The major incidents like the refusal of entry of Adivasis in Lord Jagggnanath temple in Puri, refusal for entry to Indira Gandhi in the same temple on the ground that she is a married to a Parsi, the refusal to permit a woman civil servant to Sabrimala temple on the ground that the ruling deity of the temple is a bachelor so women in the reproductive age group should not be allowed, continues. Still there are diverse rules in different temples, regulating the norms of entry.