The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which operates the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district, has decided not to allow entry of devotees inside the temple for monthly prayers due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
The board has also dropped the idea to hold the 10-day annual temple festival starting on June 19 and the five-day puja to be done at the temple beginning on June 15. The temple was planning to open on June 14.
The TDB arrived at this conclusion after holding a review meeting with the temple’s chief priest (Tantri) Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu.
However, all daily poojas will be held at the temple according to customs.
The meeting was necessary since the government, the temple board, and the Tantri had differences in opinion regarding opening of the temple, with the chief priest expressing concerns about public health.
According to Hindustan Times, the Tantri had said, “Many pilgrims swarm the temple from neighbouring states as well. It will be difficult to keep a tab on all devotees. So the festival and other functions can be postponed now.” He added that allowing devotees at this juncture will pose a serious threat.
On the other hand, the TDB had supported the reopening of the temple, with the state government approving the decision.
Contrary to the above statement, Surendran there were no differences between the priest and the TDB. “We have decided not to allow devotees in view of the fluid situation. There are no differences between the priest family and the TDB,” Hindustan Times quoted the devaswom minister as saying.
He had also said a few people who had been up for the opening of the shrine for devotees later backtracked when the government took up the suggestion and went ahead with it. He pointed to “cheap politics” and “prolonged drama” as the reason behind the confusion.
The BJP had also criticised the state government’s move to reopen the Hindu shrine, while mosques and churches were still closed.
BJP state president K Surendran said, “Why is the government so keen to open Hindu temples when mosques and churches are not opening now? Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran is foisting his greed on the devotees. The government decision on temples is against the faithful. Hindu religious heads were not consulted before opening temples, whereas the government has considered the opinion of Muslim and Christian leaders regarding opening of their places of worship,’’ The Indian Express quoted Surendran as saying.
Meanwhile, Senior BJP leader and Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan had said, “COVID-19 cases are steadily going up in Kerala. When the state’s COVID-19 preventive model goes out of control, the attempt of the government is to dodge responsibility by leaving temples open… several temples outside the Devaswom Board have decided not to open. But you (Pinarayi Vijayan) are going ahead with the decision aimed at not the faithful but the money offered at the temples by devotees. This move would hurt the sentiments of the faithful,’’ The Indian Express quoted him as saying.