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Karnataka Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Gopura row brings caste sentiments to the fore

By A. Jayaram

BANGALORE, JAN. 9. Caste sentiments have surfaced in the State. Friday's procession and public meeting organised by the Karnataka Pradesh Kurubara Sangha on the issues of demolition of the Kanaka Gopura in Udupi and the Government take over of the Krishna Mutt/Temple have brought into the open the long subdued intra-Hindu rivalries and ill-feelings.

Elsewhere in the State, a group of Veerashaivas protested in Gulbarga, accusing the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, of being anti-Veerashaiva. Some of the leaders of the procession criticised Mr. Gowda for excluding the Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs from the district from the coalition Ministry.


By participating in the public meeting, the Deputy Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, has committed the Government in favour of the demands of the sangha. His participation has raised the issue of propriety. Besides Mr. Siddaramaiah, another Minister from the Kuruba community, Y. Nagappa, took part in the meeting.

Caste feelings

The Kanaka Gopura issue has obfuscated the Bababudangiri-Datta Peetha controversy raised in the past few years by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other pro-Hindu organisations. If this controversy is being blamed for raking up communalism, that regarding the Kanaka Gopura has given rise to caste feelings.

However, unlike Mr. Siddaramaiah, who belongs to the Janata Dal (Secular), the Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, has not spelt out his stand on the Kanaka Gopura or the Udupi Mutt take over issue. So far, there have been no attempts to bring the two parties to the dispute for talks.

However, there is one instance of one of the swamijis of eight mutts of Udupi, Sri Vishvesha Tirtha Swamiji of Pejawar Mutt, sharing the same platform with one of the political leaders of the Kurubas, the former Congress Minister, H. Vishwanath. The meeting had been organised by the Bangalore Reporters' Guild. However, they have stuck to their views and there has been no meeting point.

It is of interest that the Kanaka Gopura dispute is the second in the last one year relating to Madhwacharya, propounder of the Dwaita school of philosophy and founder of the Udupi Krishna Mutt.

The first related to the deletion of reference to him from the "Nadageethe" (State Anthem) composed by Kuvempu. After a polemical debate revolving round the fact that the poet himself had not included Madhwacharya's name in the original text, the S.M. Krishna Government included the name of the philosopher following protests.


The Kanaka Gopura was demolished on August 17, 2004 by the Ashta Mutts on the ground that it was in a dilapidated condition.

The mutts have maintained that barring the name, the gopura had no connection with Kanakadasa, the saint and composer of divine music. In fact, it had been built only in the second decade of the 20th Century.

`Public place of worship'

On the other hand, the sangha has asserted that the Sri Krishna Temple is a public place of worship and does not belong to the Ashta Mutts. It has cited in support a 1937 judgment of the Madras High Court (when Udupi was part of Madras Presidency).

In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled the same way and what is in Udupi is a Krishna Temple and not Krishna Mutt. It further said that a week after the demolition in August last, the Ashta Mutts represented to the State Government to hand over the temple (which is a Muzrai Department institution) to them.

Sri Vishvesha Tirtha Swamiji has said that what exists in Udupi are a Krishna Mutt and a Krishna Temple and they are a private entity. The Department of Religious and Charitable Endowments has no authority over them. The Supreme Court has held that the mutt belongs to the Ashta Mutts. If the Government appoints an executive officer to manage the mutt, then it should bring under its control other mutts such as the Sringeri and the Adichunchanagiri.


The contention of the Ashta Mutts has been upheld by a forum of retired judges and scholars (Saamarasya Vedike) headed by the former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, M. Ramakrishna. After a fact-finding exercise, it has held that there has been no insult to Kanakadasa and the demolished gopura had nothing to do with him.

The sangha has accused the Udupi swamijis of mendacity and of misusing the names of Sri Krishna and Kanakadasa who were Shudras and attained divinity. The Krishna Temple does not belong to Madhwa Brahmins but to the Shudras, the Dalits and others.

In his address, the Deputy Chief Minister spoke of it being a precursor to the establishment of Shudra rule. What started as a protest against the demolition of the gopura has led to a demand for Government take over of the mutt.

With political leaders taking over the agitation against the Ashta Mutts, the issue can no longer be called apolitical. As there is no sign of a dialogue being initiated, a legal battle appears certain.


The agitation and the rally are also being viewed as a competition between Mr. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Vishwanath to be recognised as the supreme political leader of the Kuruba case, the third largest one in the State. It was the latter who led the agitation in the initial stages.

Karnataka has produced towering political leaders from the Kuruba caste such as T. Mariappa, the highly educated R. Nagan Gowda and Kollur Mallappa. But none of them made it to the top. Mallappa, who died recently at the age of 99, gave up the opportunity to become the Chief Minister in 1972 and made way for D. Devaraj Urs. The good showing of the Janata Dal (S) in the Assembly elections is being attributed to the support extended by the Kurubas, especially in north Karnataka.

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