Thursday, April 26, 2007


Should non-hindus enter Guruvayur?

The issue of Devaswom Minister Sri. G Sudhakaran writing to the Guruvayur Devaswom probing the possibility of admitting Yesudas into the temple is likely to grow into alarming proportions. Thanks to the tolerance of the Hindus and the accommodating mentality of Yesudas, it may after all, fizzle out with no consequences.
The first question here is whether the Devaswom Minister has any right to order such a step. In fact, it is not an order, but only a suggestion made in good spirit. What the Minister did not realize is that it is not under his purview to even suggest such a thing.
Temples are not public properties. Each one is, or was, owned by certain families or groups of people and is promoted by the devotees. If the devotees have faith in the particular god in the temple, it will grow in wealth and fame, as it happened in the case of Guruvayur. On the other side, there are hundreds of temples left uncared for by anybody and have no means to subsist. Nobody makes any claim over the right to enter such temples or donate anything to maintain them. The Government is vested only with the supervisory power to oversee the administration of the temples; it doesn’t have the right to make drastic changes in the traditions, conventions and rituals of the temples.
Guruvayur, as it happens, is one of the richest temples because there are thousands of devotees bent upon donating in cash and kind to its already overflowing coffers. But, it is wrong to conceive any singer as a true and faithful devotee. The songs were written by someone and tuned by some others; what he does is only render it in the sweet sound that he is blessed with, during his run to make money and fame. He cannot claim to have sung in praise of the Lord because of his devotion, since his motive was making money. True, the merchants of Bhakti might have made the best use of his cassettes in their eagerness to promote the God, but that does not enable the singer to be labeled as a true devotee. That is not enough reason to justify his entry into the precincts of the temple.
Well, for a person like Yesudas, a mere entry inside the four-walls of the temple may not be a great achievement to reckon. There are two reasons for this: One, as a singer, he has realized the ultimate God through music; secondly, the temple itself is not ‘pure enough’ for a person of his stature to enter.
The second statement requires further explanation. God does not need any protection. He is not to be contained within the four walls of the temple. It is the people, the administrators and the priests surrounding Guruvayurappan who require the walls. The rituals of the temple are meant to protect the rights of certain groups of people, and on many occasions, they cross over propriety. When devout worshippers are forced to stand in long queues for hours together to have a darshan of the God, the VIPs and VVIPs, mostly politicians and relatives of Board Members, get a free and quick entry. The regular misappropriation of the offerings and temple funds certainly need the cover of the four walls. If such things are done outside the walls, they might be termed as theft. Another ritual in question is the act of conducting ‘Punyaha’, when a non-hindu is caught red-handed, entering the temple. Who can make sure that no non-hindu enter the temple ‘incognito’ or without revealing the identity? The God is not concerned about it perhaps, but His ‘protectors’ are keen to catch such ‘culprits’ to make some money out of it. A non-hindu may not enter the temple, but if he makes a sumptuous donation, it is welcome and glorified.
Temples are social institutions to allow a certain group of people to make a living. They have nothing to do with faith in the omnipresent God. They are institutionalized in the names of certain idols bearing some name of god. The difference between the two is like that between H2O and water in a pond.
Changes in human behavior cannot be brought about in a day or by an individual. The culture of Hinduism is so strong and all-inclusive that irrational traditions will make way for rational ones in the long run. The true spirit of Hinduism enfolds everyone, to whatever caste, creed or religion one might belong. Those with vested interests may try to withhold changes for some time, but not for ever. There will be a time when the boundaries of human segregation will fade out and all will bask in the Glory of that Single God. There is light at the end of the tunnel and we are certain to move towards it in future.