One thought on “Panchajanyam Feb 2012”

  1. I do not mean to belittle the efforts made to preserve the tradition in the Srirangam temple in terms of (1) maintaining the Brahmaratham, (2) working against demolition of old structures, and (3) preventing smoke destruction of murals from the yAgams allowed to be performed in the temple mandapams. Valiant efforts indeed!

    Having said that I am not sure if it is a wise strategy to fight for the Brahma ratham concept in this day and age. It is anachronistic. I don’t know what the individual gains by being carried in the ratham to his home. It is similar to royal honors which does not belong today. I would rather substitute it with monetary compensation if that can be struck as a compromise. While a few senior folks in Srirangam temple streets might think it is normal practice to carry a temple priest in a palanquin, its time is past similar to the kingdoms whose times have vanished. Just like privy purses were given to the erstwhile kings, the priests who were entitled to this “ratham” honor must be given a monetary compensation for a fixed period of time. Temple history shows there have been disputes between sects regarding such privileges although the British period collector settled it. We are now living in a different age and the general population (except a minority) looks askance at such antiquated practice. It is unfortunate that the British had to interfere in the religious practices of Indians due to internal disputes among the very orthodox people. Society is now intermingled with politics and there is no point in fighting it by citing age-old custom. That is my opinion.

    Regarding the smoke problem vis-a-vis the yAgams, it has to be condemned at all costs. it is an issue based on the integrity of art in the temple premises from being eroded. Here the temple authorities cannot argue for it based on revenue generation. Society does not want to generate revenue at the expense of the surrounding environment.

    As for the demolition of certain structures within the temple, if it is a safety issue it must be addressed—such as brick structures which tend to crumble. If safety is the sole issue it cannot be opposed. Also enhancement of convenience for the devotees cannot be denied.

    Sometimes issues get polarized and magnified based on convictions–similar to the vadakalai vs tenkalai dispute in the past which went all the way to London to be settled by the Privy Council. So it is better to seek a compromise. If the lawsuit is won unequivocally it would stil be only a minor victory until the government enacts legislation (which it might) to stop the practice, listening to popular appeal.

    Remember tradition has its value only when the majority recognizes it. If men carrying men on their shoulders is considered demeaning by a vast majority of the people it must be stopped. No point in arguing tradition because tradition was imposed by a very small group at the beginning.

    PS: I suggest expanding the privileged group (eligible for Brahmaratham) to include some tirukkulattaars and let them be carried on palanquin first and then by rotation for the other existing members. If that is also opposed by general public and temple authorities then the issue is dead.

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