The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department has directed temples under its control to enforce the rules pertaining to the attire of devotees and visitors according to the agamas, traditions and customs of the individual temples.
Entry into temples in the State is governed by The Tamil Nadu Temple Entry Authorisation Act, 1947. Rule 4 of the Act states: “No person shall enter into temple premises unless he has had a bath and wears clothes of such materials and in such manner as is customary in such temple. No person shall enter a temple with any footwear.”
In a circular, the HR&CE Department has cited a recent direction of Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court that had prescribed a dress code for men, women and children wanting to visit temples governed by the Department from January 1, 2016.
Justice S. Vaidyanathan had ordered that from January 1 men should wear a “dhoti or pyjama with upper cloth or formal pants and shirts” to temples and women should wear “a sari or a half sari or churidhar with upper cloth.” Children could wear “any fully covered dress.” However, temples where men were prohibited from wearing an upper cloth could continue the practice, he clarified.
The circular has asked temples to ensure that devotees wear clothes that conform to the rules. “Many temples already have boards stating that devotees should avoid lungis, jeans, leggings and other inappropriate clothes. Sometimes, we get visitors, who were clothes that are just below knee-length and their shoulders are also not covered. We will decide what to do in such cases,” said a source in the HR & CE Department. There are temples where leather belts and purses are not allowed and men are asked to remove shirts.
In the Tiruchendur Murugan temple for instance, male devotees are asked to remove their shirts. “We follow the Kerala pattern and have nine kaala poojai. Only Pothis (Nambudiris) can perform puja in the sanctum sanctorum,” said Kottai Manikandan, the temple’s Thakkar.
R. Kannan, an expert in agamas and temple restoration, explained that almost all ancient temples in the State have their own usage and customs.