Hindu sects in dispute over temple worship rights

May 24th, 2008 - 1:16 am ICT by admin  

Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu), May 23 (IANS) The Chidambaram Nataraja temple is embroiled in a controversy following differences of opinion between two cults over over a temple festival, priests said here Friday. Trouble arose when adherents of the Vaishnavite cult obtained permission to celebrate the annual festival of the Govindarajaswamy (Vishnu) shrine located inside the Nataraja temple between May 16 and 25 from the government-controlled Hindu Religious and Cultural Endowments department.

The Vaishnavite leaders claimed they were being prevented from practising their belief.

Venkatesha Dikshitar, a Shaivite priest, told IANS that it was a “mischievous move” by department to gain control over the privately run temple.

“Though there is a Vishnu shrine inside the precincts of the Shiva temple, its flagstaff cannot be used for any festival other than those authorised by us. Any attempt on the part of the government to challenge our control by authorising a festival not confirming to our rules will be opposed by us,” Dikshitar said.

However, S. Raghavan Iyengar, a Vaishnavite community leader, said: “Why should we be prevented from worshipping Lord Vishnu whose shrine abuts that of Shiva since time immemorial here merely because of religious bigotry on the part of the Dikshitars? The issue of control over the Vishnu shrine has been decided long back in favour of HR & CE. There cannot be a different set of laws within a single temple.”

Former HR & CE minister V.V. Swaminathan told IANS that gods belonged to all humanity and ought not to be converted into a dispute within Hindu sects.

“The Dikshitars’ stand is incomprehensible because divinity cannot be disputed by humans,” Swaminathan said.

Superintendent of Police, Pradeep Kumar speaking on phone from the district headquarters situated at Cuddalore near here said: “As a matter of precaution, additional police forces have been posted outside the temple.”

“The matter will be heard by the commissioner and secretary of the HR & CE departments sometime in future. Till a decision is arrived at by the government, both the parties have agreed to defer the festival issue,” Assistant Superintendent of Police Dr. Senthil Velan told IANS.

Situated 240 km south of Chennai, Chidambaram was embroiled in another controversy in mid 2006 over the opposition to singing of Tamil hymns in praise of Lord Shiva by non-Brahmins. After a brief fracas, and the arrests of priests and devotees, the issue was resolved following Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s appeal for calm.

While the Shiva temple is controlled by the Dikshitars, the Vishnu shrine is under the control of the government.

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