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Yesudas' entry into Kerala's Padmanabhaswamy temple is welcome move, but temple laws must be amended

Famed Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram may resonate with a beautiful devotional song in Sanskirt which is addressed directly to the presiding deity on the Vijayadashmi day, which symbolises victory of good over evil, on 30 September from a non-Hindu.

The devotees of Lord Padmanabha, the deity, will get this rare musical treat with the temple executive committee permitting K J Yesudas, one of Kerala's most celebrated singers, to offer prayers at the centuries-old temple on a day when hundreds of tiny tots at the temple and thousands across Kerala will be initiated into the world of letters.

 Yesudas entry into Keralas Padmanabhaswamy temple is welcome move, but temple laws must be amended

File image of Singer Yesudas. IBNLive

The singer has expressed his desire to make his entry to the temple memorable by reciting 'Padmanabha Satakam', a poem praising the deity, penned by Swathi Tirunal Rama Verma, who ruled the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore for nearly two decades in the 19th century.

Yesudas, a Christian by birth, was denied entry in this and many other temples in the state citing their tradition of not allowing non-Hindus. The Padmnabhaswamy temple panel on Monday gave the permission after he submitted a sworn affidavit stating that he believes in Hindu faith and is keen to have a darshan.

Noted historian Professor M G Shashibhushan said the decision is historical since the temple only allowed non-Hindus inside the temple if they produced a certificate issued by any one of the designated Hindu organisations stating that they profess Hindu faith. Shashibhushan, who has served as a member of the temple conservation committee after treasures worth billions were unearthed from its secret chambers in 2011, told Firstpost, that this decision may allow non-Hindus to offer prayers in the temple in future by giving an individual declaration as the one given by Yesudas.

"This is as historical as the 1937 Temple Entry Proclamation, which opened the doors of the temple to lower castes. Several temples started allowing entry to non-Hindus as well along with lower castes since then. The current decision may force others also to follow suit," said Shashibhushan.

However, many stick to the "outdated" tradition even now. They include the famous Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor and Kadampuzha Devi Temple in Malappuram. Yesudas, who has rendered numerous devotional songs in praise of Hindu Gods, had bitter experience in both these temples.

While the Kadampuzha shrine turned away the singer even after being invited to the temple, he was stopped at the gates when he went to the Guruvayur temple over three decades ago along with his guru Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar for performing a music concert. Seeing his disciple's plight, the Guru led Yesudas to an impromptu, all-night concert in praise of Lord Krishna outside the temple.

Several temples, including many under the state-controlled Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), insist on certificates affirming faith in Hindu religion for entry to non-Hindus. Board member Ajay Tharayil's recent proposal to amend the law governing temple entry to permit entry to all non-Hindus who believes in Hindu worship inside the temple had kicked off a big controversy with many Hindu organisations coming out against it.

Ajay said that many non-Hindus, who believe in Hindu worship, were not willing to produce either the certificate or declaration regarding the faith since it tantamount to indirect conversion.

"It is a fact that non-Hindus offer worship at temples with or without the knowledge of the temple authorities. When a non-Hindu gives a declaration saying he believes in Hindu faith, it is indirect conversion," Ajay said in a Facebook post early this month.

Various Hindu organisations objected to the proposal saying that it was a matter to be decided by Hindu organisations. BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan said there was no need for TDB to intervene in the matter when there were outfits like the Temple Protection Committee and Vishwa Hindu Parishad to decide whether there is any need for a change in the temple norms.

TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said it was not possible to adopt a uniform law for all the temples under the board since each temple has its own tantric tradition. The TDB, or even the government, cannot violate the tantric code of a temple," he said.

The Padmanabhaswamy temple has also been sticking strictly to the customs and traditions. However, sources said that the committee, which included the head priest and chief priest, relaxed the norm for the celebrity considering his affinity towards Hindu worship.

Even though born in a Catholic family, Yesudas has been offering prayers at various temples in Kerala and outside. He regularly offers prayers at Kollur Mookambika and Sabarimala temples. On his birthday every year, he visits Mookambika temple and takes part in the musical tribute.

Many of the devotional songs he sung about various Hindu gods are played every day in temples across the state. His song 'Harivarasanam' is one of the biggest hits among his devotional numbers about Lord Ayyappa and it is also played at Sabarimala every day.

Though the devotees have generally welcomed the Padmanabhasway temple panel's decision to permit entry to the singer, it is doubtful whether the Hindu organisations would allow the temple to permit other non-Hindus on the basis of similar individual declarations.

Some of these organisations had torpedoed a recent temple committee decision to relax the dress code for women devotees taken at the behest of the state high court. However, the court turned down the panel's order allowing women to enter the temple wearing churidar and salwar kameez after some religious groups challenged it citing its customs and traditions.

The Padmanabhaswamy temple shot into fame as one of the world's richest temples after treasures worth an estimated Rs 1 lakh crore were found in five of the six secret chambers underneath the temple on the orders of the Supreme Court.

Though the sixth chamber (vault 'B'), which is believed to contain similar treasures still remains unopened due to the objections raised by the erstwhile Travancore Royal family, the main custodian of the temple. Senior members of the family have been opposing it arguing it was against God's will.

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Updated Date: Sep 19, 2017 16:03:11 IST

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