Residents protest mandapam takeover

Hindu Maha Sabha and VHP cadre stage agitation in front of Ayodhya Aswamedha Maha Mandapam.

Chennai: An attempt by the state Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department to bring under its ambit the Ayodhya Aswamedha Maha Mandapam, established for conducting Rama Navami celebrations/religious discourses at West Mambalam, here, stirred a hornet’s nest.

Residents vehemently protested the takeover move, even as the HR&CE department has appointed a thakkar (fit person) to administer the mandapam and also enquire into allegations of misappropriation.

Admitting that the executive officer of the Sri Balasubrahmanya Swamy temple, Teyna­mpet, here, has been posted as thakkar for Ayodhya Mandapam, recently, following complaints of irregularities, a senior official of the HR&CE department said the officials have not taken the mandapam under their control yet.

But sensing apparent threat and to thwart the department’s attempts, the Sri Ram Samaj, administering the mandapam, has gone on an appeal before the Madras high court seeking to stay the HR&CE move.

The magnificent structure on Arya Gowda Road had a humble beginning when K. Subramania Iyer, a resident of West Mambalam, and others rai­sed '242 and conducted the first Sri Rama Navami celebrations under a makeshift, thatched shed in 1954.

Brahmasri Somadeva Sarma gave the organisation its name: Sri Ram Samaj - which was registered as a society in 1958. Sukhabrahmam Brahmasri Ramaswamy Sastrigal delivered the first discourse on Valmiki Ramayanam.

Besides the Ayodhya Aswamedha Maha Mandapam, the Sri Ram Samaj has under its umbrella Mithilapuri Kalyana Mandapam, Sri Sitaram Vidyalaya Matriculation Higher Secondary School and Gnanavapi (for performing last rites for departed souls).

According to P.K. Suresh Kumar, advocate and member of Sri Ram Samaj, the office-bearers of the samaj were rendering honorary service to society and the accounts were duly audited.
“It is not a temple… the decision (to take over) is arbitrary.”

“Besides discourses, Vishnu Sahasranamam is chanted regularly here,” says Viswanathan, a resident of West Mambalam, who is a regular visitor. A tense situation prevailed at the mandapam during the day when the residents and members of the Hindu Maha Sabha and VHP staged an agitation.

Next: Our rights have been restored, say jubilant Dikshithars

Our rights have been restored, say jubilant Dikshithars

S. Prasad | DC

Chidambaram: The Podu Dikshithars (priests) in the famous shrine of Lord Nataraja at Chidambaram on Monday jubilantly welcomed the order of the Supreme Court upholding the rights of the Podu Dikshithars to administer the temple. The apex court set aside the order of the Madras high court, given in 2009, transferring the right to administer the temple from the Podu Dikshithars to the Tamil Nadu government.

Today’s verdict has come as a huge relief to the priests who have been traditionally administering the temple. The celebrations welcoming the Supreme Court judgment were marked by bursting of crackers on the temple premises, distribution of sweets and cheerful greetings by the Dikshithars.

Speaking to this newspaper, Venkatesh Dikshithar said the Supreme Court verdict was a big relief. For the last five years since the temple was brought under the control of the state government-appointed executive officer, the move had caused “intolerable hardship to us as we have been traditionally administering the temple in keeping with the Agama shastras. The order upholding the decision of the government to take over the temple was passed in 2009, hitting our basic right to a livelihood.

The appointment of an executive officer to administer the shrine was also done in violation of healthy precedents that should have been adopted; our rights should have been honoured. We now feel honoured that our basic rights have been restored,” said Venkatesh Dikshithar.

The state government took over the temple in February 2009, alleging that the Podu Dikshithars had indulged in several malpractices. It also cited the absence of vouchers for various expenses. However, the Dikshithars filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the takeover, claiming that they were a denominational sect and were the traditional custodians of the temple.

On Monday, tension prevailed in Chidambaram here as activists of the New Democratic Labour Front and Human Rights Protection Centre resorted to a road blockade near the north entrance, demanding that state government take over the temple.

As many as 58 activists were arrested by the police. S. Raju, state coordinator of the Human Rights Protection Centre, alleged that the Podu Dikshithars were practising language discrimination and caste untouchability in the temple, by preventing the use of Tamil in the sanctum sanctorum.

He said the temple was a symbol of cultural heritage, not confined to the Dikshithars. The state government should enact a special Act in the Legislative Assembly and take over the temple in the interests of the general public, he said.

( Source : dc )
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