PM Modi’s visit to Nallur temple in Sri Lanka prevented by dress code, lack of flexible timings: Former diplomat

In his memoir, A. S. Natarajan, who was India’s Consul General in Jaffna from 2015-18, recalls how the temple’s bare chest code for male devotees and its strict timings came in the way of Mr. Modi’s visit

October 24, 2023 05:01 pm | Updated October 25, 2023 12:01 pm IST - CHENNAI

The Nallur Kandaswamy or Murugan temple in Jaffna, Northern Province.

The Nallur Kandaswamy or Murugan temple in Jaffna, Northern Province. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The dress code that is strictly followed by the Nallur Kandaswamy temple authorities for men devotees, and lack of flexibility in the timings of the temple apparently came in the way of the plan of Indian diplomats in Sri Lanka to take Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the temple during his visit to Jaffna in March 2015. 

Recalling the sequence of events then, A. Natarajan, who was India’s Consul General in Jaffna during 2015-18, in his memoir, From the Village to the Global Stage, which will be launched at a function in Coimbatore shortly, states that it had been planned for Mr. Modi to visit the Nallur temple or the Maviddapuram Kandaswamy temple or the Naguleswaram temple near Kankesanthurai (KKS).  But during a meeting that Mr. Natarajan had with the Nallur Devasthanam Executive Officer, Kumaradasa Mappana Mudaliar, the latter told him that “the revolutionary practice of equality has been maintained and it has been carried out to this day by the temple authorities. Therefore, there is no question of any flexibility in the timings of the shrine, and the devotees could enter the shrine only with bare chests.” 

A. Natarajan’s memoir, From the Village to the Global Stage, will be launched at a function in Coimbatore shortly

A. Natarajan’s memoir, From the Village to the Global Stage, will be launched at a function in Coimbatore shortly | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Eventually, Mr. Modi went to the Naguleswaram temple, which was then headed by  Naguleswara Kurukkal, who passed away in July this year at the age of 98.

Mr. Modi’s visit to Jaffna was notable as it was the first by an Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Natarajan observes. 

The former diplomat, who served in many countries such as Yemen, Spain, China, Indonesia, France and Bhutan, regards as unique, his stint in Sri Lanka, where he spent six years at a stretch including three in Kandy as Assistant High Commissioner.  Describing Sri Lankans as an extraordinary people, he says, “In my six-year-long stay in Sri Lanka, I have never come across a person with a gloomy or frowning face. Nobody honks the horn on the road, urinates, defecates, or spits in public places. I have hardly heard anyone hurling abuse in public places or seen any public quarrels on the streets. Instead, I have seen only miles of smiles on the faces of Sri Lankans.”

A. Natarajan was a former Consul General of India in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

A. Natarajan was a former Consul General of India in Jaffna, Sri Lanka | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

LTTE cadre

Talking about the honesty of a former cadre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mr. Natarajan says that the former combatant, who was living in Vavuniya and was in his late 30s , had once narrated to him that he remained jobless as he was being shunned by society.  The former diplomat had asked the former LTTE member to meet him two weeks later in Jaffna, which the latter did. At that time, he gave him Sri Lankan Rupee (SLR) 18,000 in cash from his savings.

Exactly a year later, the former combatant contacted Mr. Natarajan and informed him that as he had bought a bicycle for SLR 16,000, he wanted to return SLR 2,000. Despite the former diplomat telling him not to trouble himself by coming to Jaffna from Vavuniya, a distance of 115 km, the latter turned up along with his four-year-old daughter to return the money.  “I received the money with one hand and gave it to his daughter with the other,” the former Consul General notes. 

Brought out by Kavitha Publication, the memoir also covers Mr Natarajan’s innings in many countries. 

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