Right-wing group ‘stops’ Guruvayur temple Thar headed to Muslim NRI

The Muslim NRI won the limited edition SUV in an auction, after it was gifted to the temple by the carmaker  

The red Mahindra Thar was sold to the only bidder for ₹1,510,000.

The gift of a limited edition Mahindra Thar to the Guruvayur Temple, which initially aroused amusement has now turned into a reason for communal polarization with a right-wing group opposing the auction of the vehicle to a Muslim NRI.

When the Mahindra Group gifted the red Thar to the temple last December, the matter had raised a debate among car lovers on what could the temple management possibly do with an off-road SUV. Soon after, the Devaswom board put the vehicle up for auction, which was the temple management’s usual way of disposing of valuable things received as offerings. Only one bidder came up and the car was sold for ₹1,510,000. The story should have ended there, but it just set off the beginning of an unpleasant controversy.

The person winning the auction was Subhash Panicker, an astrologer based in Thrissur’s Kecheri, a few kilometers from the temple. Panicker who runs an office (of astrology) on the temple premises participated in the auction and won the bid for his friend and Bahrain-based businessman Ali Mohemmad’s son Anwar Mohemmad.

A section of people in the temple’s management committee have raised objection to the auction, alleging that the car was sold at a loss to the Guruvayur Devaswom. However, the management has left the auction proceedings for the approval of the Devaswam Commissioner, an IAS officer. Meanwhile, an organisation called ‘Hindu Seva Kendra’ has filed a petition in the Kerala High Court, raising objection to the auction and demanding its cancellation.


Was there anything wrong in Panicker bidding for Anwar Ali Mohemmad? “Absolutely not,” says Panicker.

Explaining the auction process, Panicker said, “Anwar is the son of Ali Mohemmad, a long-time friend of mine who is a businessman in Bahrain. When he came to know about the auction, he wanted to participate and win the car as a gift to his son. As he is not in Kerala, he entrusted me with the job.”

Panicker said the current controversy is nothing, but a deliberate attempt to communalise a usual auctioning procedure. “I have informed the Devaswom authorities in advance that I had been participating on behalf of my friend Ali. There is nothing unusual about it,” he added.

“People from all religions participate in our auctions. There is no bar on anyone,” says KP Vinayan, the administrator of Guruvayur Devaswom.

“The Devaswom committee unanimously decided to put the car on auction because a four-wheeler SUV does not have much use in the daily functioning of the temple. We were informed in advance that Subhash Panicker was participating on behalf of Anwar Ali Mohemmad. We have followed all procedures, but any auction comes into effect only after the approval of the commissioner. We have sent it for his consideration and are waiting for his response,” Vinayan told The Federal.

Stating that a deliberate attempt was being made to communalise the matter, Vinayan said that the temple management has never discriminated against any religion and that the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayur is even visited by people from all religions. “You can see purdah-wearing women coming to the temple and making offerings. The only restriction is that non-Hindus cannot enter the sanctum sanctorum,” he said.

Panicker said that he will not relent and will even go to the court to get justice. “We will fight it out in the court. If there are technical errors committed from the side of the Devaswom, we are not responsible for the same,” he said.

“My friend Ali is a man who respects all religions and he was very enthusiastic about this car, considering it a ‘gift from God’. He is rich enough to buy such a car from the showroom, but he was interested in this car because it was an offering given at the temple,” Panicker said.

He remarked that “real Hindus” should not try to create obstruction against ‘God’s will’ and should let Anwar Ali get the car he deserves.

In its petition, the Hindu Seva Kendra has said that anything which has value of more than ₹5,000 needs to have prior approval of the Devaswom Commissioner for auction.

“This is nothing but an attempt to communalise this issue. As they cannot directly tell the court that a Muslim cannot be allowed to get things from the temple in auction, they try to object it with other excuses,” Panicker said.

The high court of Kerala has posted the case to February 22 for further hearing.