‘Non-Hindus cannot enter Tamil Nadu temples beyond kodimaram‘, Madras High Court judge orders restrictions

If a non-Hindu seeks to visit a particular deity in a temple, the authorities shall obtain an undertaking from the individual that he/she has faith in the deity, and would follow the customs and practices of Hinduism and of the temple, says Justice S. Srimathy

January 30, 2024 10:05 pm | Updated February 01, 2024 07:03 pm IST - MADURAI

Authorities shall strictly follow the agamas, customs and practices of the temple, Madras High Court judge Justice S. Srimathy said, and directed the authorities not to allow non-Hindus who do not believe in the religion beyond the kodimaram. Photo for representation. Photo: Special Arrangement

Authorities shall strictly follow the agamas, customs and practices of the temple, Madras High Court judge Justice S. Srimathy said, and directed the authorities not to allow non-Hindus who do not believe in the religion beyond the kodimaram. Photo for representation. Photo: Special Arrangement

Justice S. Srimathy of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the State government, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and temple authorities to install boards at the entrance of temples, near the kodimaram (flagpole), and at all prominent places on such premises, indicating that non-Hindus were not allowed beyond the kodimaram of the temples.

If a non-Hindu seeks to visit a particular deity in a temple, the authorities shall obtain an undertaking from the individual that he/she has faith in the deity, and would follow the customs and practices of Hinduism and of the temple. On obtaining such an undertaking, the non-Hindu may be allowed to visit the temple, the judge said.

Justice S. Srimathy of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. Photo: hcmadras.tn.nic.in

Justice S. Srimathy of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. Photo: hcmadras.tn.nic.in

Whenever a non-Hindu is allowed entry based on such an undertaking, the same shall be recorded in a register maintained by the temple. The authorities shall strictly follow the agamas, customs and practices of the temple, she said, and directed the authorities not to allow non-Hindus who do not believe in the religion beyond the kodimaram.

The authorities submitted that if such a board was installed, it would hurt the religious sentiments of those who would like to visit the temple.

Also Read | Tracing the struggle for temple entry in Tamil Nadu 

To this, the judge said that the authorities were confusing the issue. If a non-Hindu did not have faith in the religion and declined to follow its customs and practices and those of the temple, then he/she cannot be allowed entry, and hence, there was no question of hurting sentiments, she said.

On the other hand, if a non-Hindu who declined to follow such customs and practices was allowed inside the temple, it would affect the sentiments of the large number of Hindus who practise the faith reverently. It would also affect the rights of Hindus guaranteed under the Constitution, the court said.

Further, Justice Srimathy said that a temple was not a picnic or tourist spot, and ought to be maintained with reverence, and as per agamas.

Citing newspaper reports on people of other religions allegedly consuming non-vegetarian food inside a Hindu temple and carrying “their sacred book” near the sanctum sanctorum of another temple, the judge said, “These incidents are absolutely interfering in the fundamental rights guaranteed to the Hindus under the Constitution.”

She said that Hindus had a fundamental right to profess and practice their religion freely. “Therefore, the Hindus have a right to maintain their temples as per their customs and practices, and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department has a duty to protect temples from such unwanted incidents. In fact, in the above-narrated incidents, the Department had failed to protect the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” the judge said.

Also Read | What is paramount: Country or religion? asks Madras High Court

Religious harmony was always maintained among Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other religions in ‘Bharat’ when people belonging to different religions respected each other’s faith and sentiments, the judge said.

Non-Hindus cannot be allowed inside the temple. But if their faith is established, an exemption could be granted, the judge said.

She passed the order on a petition filed in 2023 by D. Senthilkumar, of Palani in Dindigul district. The petitioner, the organiser of the Palani Hill Temple Devotees Organisation, had sought a direction to the temple authorities to install a board stating, “Non-Hindus are not allowed on the temple premises”. He said that such a board, which had earlier been installed on the premises of the Dhandayuthapani Swamy temple, was removed due to renovation work.

Earlier, the court had issued an interim order of status quo ante with a direction to restore the board.

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