Priests at the Guruvayur Temple have just conducted a mahapunyham to “purify” the temple after the family of minister for overseas development Vayalar Ravi conducted a ceremony. Their “crime”: Although Ravi is a Hindu, his daughter-in-law is a Christian and the temple’s rules do not permit the entry of non-Hindus in the august presence of Guruvayurappan.
Just a couple of months ago, the Jagannath temple in Puri threw away food cooked for 7,000 people after the priests insisted that the temple had been “defiled” by the entry of an American tourist. The case of K.J. Yesudas being denied entry because of his religion is more than two decades old, and more recently there was the brouhaha over the entry of Jayamala to Sabarimala.
Questions: Do such rites really “purify” our temples? Are temples within their rights to conduct such “purification” rituals? Or, in barring people on the lines of caste, religion and gender, are they perpetuating a new form of untouchability? Should these rigid, regressive man-made rules be junked? Or is this, as usual, yet another secular, slash pseudo-secular assault on Hindu customs and traditions, while ignoring mosques and churches which reserve the right of entry in their own ways?