City temples quiet on queues

Whose God Is It Anyway?

BHAGYASRI CHAUDHURY  | CHENNAI

Less than a week after the High Court ruled that no special entry fee can entail closer proximity to deities in Tamil Nadu temples, some temples in the city are yet to implement the decision.

Almost every top temple in Tamil Nadu has a ‘free darshan’ queue and a payment queue, and those in the paid queue can be physically closer to the deity than their free darshan counterparts. In some temples the devotees are at the same distance from the deity whether it is a paid line or a free one.

“Puja is Rs. 55 if you want to get into the special queue, but only Rs 5. if you get in with everybody else,” said the ticket collector at the Kapaleeshwarar temple.

The fifty rupee special ticket is the key to the kingdom, allowing buyers a hassle free special entry into the sanctum sanctorum

The Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore has hundreds of devotees coming each day, and the proceeds, some say, are used for temple upkeep.

“These tickets are meant for people to get a direct entry,” said Jayanti Shankar, a Vedic philosopher who visits the temple often. “Any Tom, Dick or Harry who can afford these tickets can go. But even if you can afford it, I don’t understand the necessity of these queues.”

When the discrimination caused by the two different queues was challenged in a PIL filed by the Indic Collective Trust, the first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M. Sundar had directed authorities of major temples in Tamil Nadu to ensure that all devotees, irrespective of free or special entry tickets could worship the deity from the same distance.

The Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, however, is an ancient and busy temple that takes pride in itself not being part of the blacklisted temples.

“We have no problems, and no partiality here,” said Balaji, part of the managerial staff at the temple. “We only collect money that is donated. There is no concept of a ticket-purchase.”

The temple has been maintained this way for centuries, and Balaji believes in treating all devotees equally.

“All are equal in the eyes of God,” said Balaji, part of the managerial staff at the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane.

The Madras High Court ruling came in on Monday. However, some city temples are still charging a special entry fee for those who can afford to, to be allowed into the sanctum sanctorum for their prayers.

 

The petitioner wanted the court to direct the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department to abolish the practice of offering ‘better and closer’ darshan to paid devotees at Srivilliputhur Sri Andal temple, Arulmigu Ekambaranathar temple at Kanchipuram, and Arulmigu Oppiliappan temple at Thanjavur.

Religion, gender, and financial status- what are the prerequisites to enter a temple in a democracy?

 

 

 

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