Controversy Erupts: HR&CE Officials and Police Allegedly Assault Deekshitars at Chidambaram Temple during Aani Thirumanjanam Festival

In a distressing turn of events at the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple, officials from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department and the police stormed into the Kanakasabai (Golden Platform) during the ongoing Aani Thirumanjanam festival. This move has sparked outrage and condemnation from the temple authorities and devotees.

Traditionally, during the Aani Thirumanjanam festival, which spans from 24 June to 27 June this year, devotees are not allowed to enter the Kanakasabai to ensure the smooth handling of the large crowds that visit the temple during this period. However, the HR & CE officials and over 100 policemen defied this and entered the Kanakasabai during the sacred rituals. As a result, the Deekshitars, who are the custodians of the temple, protested against this intrusion, and 11 Deekshitars were booked for obstructing the officials.

The HR & CE officials justified their entry by claiming that a Government Order (GO) had been issued, and they were simply implementing it. The Deekshitars, who opposed their entry, faced physical aggression, with their clothes torn and their sacred threads (janeu) cut in the process.

However, Chidambaram police officials have denied that such an incident happened. They say that officials had entered the platform to allow worship as per the government order.

The Chidambaram Nataraja Temple, managed by the Deekshitars for thousands of years, has historically changed darshan timings and programs during festivals to accommodate the influx of devotees. The recent interference by the government administration, misrepresenting the temple’s announcement and changing the darshan from Kanakasabai, has caused confusion and unrest among the temple-goers.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled that the government cannot interfere in the management of the temple. Despite this ruling, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government has continued to create controversy through the HR & CE department, causing disturbance and unrest among the Deekshitars and the devotees.

The intrusion at the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple has been met with criticism by devotees, who denounce the blatant and irreverent state interference in a place of worship that is not under HR & CE control.

The temple’s administration, under the stewardship of the Deekshitars, has been praised for their devotion and democratic practices, even acknowledged by British South Arcot collector J.H. Garstin in 1878.

In response to this incident, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed against the Arbitrary, Unlawful, and Unconstitutional Government Order issued by the Tamil Nadu government at the behest of the HR & CE department regarding the Chidambaram Sri Nataraja Temple. The petitioner TR Ramesh vows to expose the alleged anti-Vedic agenda of the government in court, as well as shed light on financial irregularities within the HR & CE department. HR & CE Minister Sekar Babu, speaking to the press, accused the Deekshitars of being problematic and said that they were trying to establish a power center within the Chidambaram temple.

He threatened legal action against them and claimed that the temple operates solely on public donations, devoid of any hundi (donation box) within its premises. Sekar Babu further accused the Deekshitars of withholding information regarding the temple’s funds, both past and present, including the inventory of gold jewellery. He demanded transparency, arguing that since the temple runs on devotees’ contributions, they have the right to know how it is managed.
Minister Sekar Babu contended that the Supreme Court ruling allowed the HR & CE department to decide whether devotees could worship from the Kanakasabai. Based on this interpretation, the government issued a GO permitting devotees to do so. He accused the Deekshitars of using the Aani Thirumanjanam festival as an excuse to deny access to the Kanakasabai. This, he claimed, was the reason for the department’s intervention. The minister asserted that the government was opposed to the control exerted by 200 Deekshitars over the temple and affirmed the government’s commitment to ensure lawful conduct.

(This post was originally published in thecommunemag)

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