An Open Letter sent to the Srirangam temple J.C. by Sri Vaishnava Sri Krishnamachari questioning his authority in cancelling the Bhattar Bramaratham
Your attempt to introduce social reforms in the temple is against all norms. You have no authority to interfere with the religious practices of this temple and in the name of introducing social reform you have attempted to defile and desecrate the idol. Under the provisions of HR &CE Act you and the Board of Trustees have no authority to interfere and modify age old customs. Further you have not notified in writing your decision to stop Brahmaratham in advance to the persons who were due for the offering of respect. This is against natural justice. Further you should know that the “Kaisika Brahmaratha Mariyaadhai” is done to the “Kaisikapurana Scripture” for which the Parasara Bhattar Son of Sri Koorthazhvan wrote a commentary. Just as in Yaanai Vahanam the Archaka is holding the idol sitting on the Vahanam and the vahanam is carried by men only , here, in the case of Bhattar’s Brahmaratham on the kaisika Ekadasi Day the Scripture which is considered holy is held in possession by a person clad in a special dress. There he is considered as a Guru and his disciples are to carry him to express their gratitude towards the Guru. But, unfortunately in the name of social reforms with scan respect for tradition you have sabtoged a long standing custom.
The contents of Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution was discussed and analysedthe in the Seshammal vs. State of Tamil Nadu which has been publised in the Madras Law Journal Report (Supreme Court) and the contents are as follows:-
“The contents of Arts. 25 and 26 of the Constitution came up for consideration before this Court in the Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Matt, Manapat Jagannath Ramanuj Das v. The State of Orissa, Sri Venkatamona Devaru v. The State of Myusore, Durgah Committee, Ajmer v. Syed Hussain Ali, and several other cases and the main principles underlying these provisions have by these decisions been placed beyond controversy. The first is that the protection of these Articles is not limited to matters of doctrine or belief; they extend also to acts done in pursuance of religion and therefore contain a guarantee for rituals and observances, ceremonies and modes of worship which are integral parts of religion. The second is that what constitutes an essential part of a religion or religious practice has to be decided by the Courts with reference to the doctrine of a particular religion and includes practices which are regarded by the community as part of its religion.”
The learned judges have further stated that the Board of Trustees have to follow the provisions of 28/1 of the HR & CE Act 1959.
“In a Saivite or a Vaishnavite temple the appointment of the Archaka will have to be made from a specified denomination, sect or group, in accordance with the directions of the Agamas governing these temples. Failure to do so would not only be contrary to section 28(1) which requires the trustee to follow the usage of the temple, but would also interfere with a religious practice the inevitable result of which would be to defile the image………………………………..will be bound to follow the hereditary principle as a usage peculiar to the temple.”
Under the pretext of social reform you can not introduce or modify the age old customs. The Board of Trustees is not a law making body. You can modify such customs only through a law enacted by the assembly. Further, you have not made public the resolution of the Board of Trustees as it affected the age old customs and traditions. The Supreme Court had ruled out that (The Seshammal v. State of Tamil Nadu Case) “ the 1972 Act gives the indication that one of the purposes of the Act is to effect a change in the rituals and ceremonies followed in the temples. On the other hand, section 107 of the principal Act. emphasises that nothing contained in the Act would be deemed to confer any power or impose any duty in contravention of the rights conferred on any religious denomination or any section thereof by Article 26 of the Constitution. Similarly section 105 provides that nothing contained in the Act shall (a) save as otherwise expressly provided in the Act or the rules made thereunder, affect any Honour, emolument or perquisite to which any person is entitled by custom or otherwise in any religious institution, or its established usage in regard to any other matter. Moreover, if any Rule is framed by the Government which purports to interfere with the rituals and ceremonies of the temples the same will be liable to be challenged by those who are interested in the temple worship.”
You have not followed the principles of Natural Justice. You had sent out a letter under letter No. 4555/1420/T1 dt. 20/9/2010 to the descendants of Vedavyasa Bhattar and Parasara Bhattar and Arayars stating that men should not carry man inside the temple precincts which is equivalent to hand rickshaw pulling (This is an odd comparison. Carrying and paying respect to an Acharya as ordained by Lord by the sishyas of the Acharya can not be compared to hand rickshaw pulling where earns his livelyhood. You can not wound the feelings of the devotees. By law you are the guardian of the Lord).
If there should not be any difference before Lord in the name of Psst, Gender, Caste or Creed, Language then why certain people are given Honours when the Lord is in procession in preference to others. Why when the collector comes to the temple Dawali Servant accompanies him? Why the Maniyar prostrates before the Stalathars? Like this one can raise thousands of such questions for which you will not be able to answer properly. In the name of social reforms you can change all these customs. But you can not do so. Finally you will have to come with an answer that they are all long standing customs and tradition bound by a court judgement etc.. Why you have not implemented till date the provisions of Rule 106 of the HR & CE Act. pertaining to Distribution of Theertham, Turmeric Powder, Kunkumam and cooked food (Prasadam) to women along with men without any discrimination. Even though I had raised this question earlier under RTI you have not replied. Before attempting changes in the customs and traditions like denial of Brahmaratham better you introduce changes in the temple in accordance with the provisions of HR & CE Act.
It is obvious that you have taken the support of the Atheist Parties who do not believe in God and Temple rituals and claim to have achieved victory which is false in the eyes of Law. As a worshipper I will soon engage you in a legal battle. Your bone of contention in denying the Brahmaratham is that Men Should Not Carry Man inside the temple precincts. But in replying to my RTI Query No. 10 vide your letter dt. 1900-1420-T1 dt. 17/11/2010 that there is no intention to stop the practice of carrying the persons dressed as Thirumangai Azhwar by another man inside the temple on the 8th Day of Raappaththu, as it is not called Brahmaratham. First of all, nobody calls this occasion as Brahmaratham. But your logic seems to be wrong. You have denied Brahmaratham to Bhattar citing the social thinking that man should not be carried by men. If that is the basic underlying principle to deny an age old custom arbitrarily. What prevents you from preventing the act of “Man carried by Men” and that too inside the temple precincts on the 8th day of Rappaththu. If you abolish one custom, based on a certain principle, whether right or wrong are you not to apply the same principle to all the customs and traditions which you consider against social thinking inside the temple. If it is not so I have to consider that you have double standards in the administration of this great temple which makes you not worthy to occupy the post of an Executive Officer who is supposed to be unbiased and who should respect the age old customs.