SC to examine pleas on T.N. govt. interfering in Agamic traditions of temples

The petitioners have urged the Supreme Court to constitute a committee headed by a retired apex court judge to undertake the exercise of identifying the Agamic temples in Tamil Nadu

Published - September 25, 2023 11:34 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a series of petitions alleging that the Tamil Nadu government is attempting to appoint “non-believers” as archakas (priests), contrary to the age-old Agamas governing temples in the State.

A Bench headed by Justice AS Bopanna issued notice to the State government and ordered status quo “relating to the Archakaship in the Agamic temples in question until further orders”.

The petitions, including one filed by the All India Adi Saiva Sivacharyargal Seva Association, represented by senior advocates Guru Krishnakumar, P. Valliappan, and G. Balaji, sought to quash State government directives in the months of July and August to “train persons in the performance of poojas/ceremonies/rituals, contrary to the Agamas”.

The petitions said the State’s directives were against the Supreme Court’s own judgments, which had upheld the rights of religious denominations. The top court had held that the Agamas of the temples should be strictly followed for the appointment of Archakas.

The petitioners have urged the Supreme Court, in the interests of justice, to constitute a committee headed by a retired apex court judge to undertake the exercise of identifying the Agamic temples in Tamil Nadu.

“Any violation of Agarnas is believed to defile the images of gods and bring misfortune to the devotees. As per the Agamas, only the denominations of Sivachariyars/Gurukkals/Adi Saivars/Battars and Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa Battachariyars are entitled to perform the poojas in Saivite and Vaishnavite temples, respectively. This is in accordance with the specific Agamas governing the specific temples. This practice has been in vogue from time immemorial,” the petitioners argued.

The petitions accused Tamil Nadu of trying repeatedly to “snatch” the rights of the denominations.

“Out of about 38,000 temples in the State of Tamil Nadu, merely about 3,600 have been in existence for over a 1000 years and are governed strictly by the Agamas and traditions. In the rest of the 35,000 temples, the denominations do not have any right to perform poojas,” the petitioners contended.

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