16 Jan 2010

Temple authorities cannot refuse the pass deity through Dalit colony: High Court

In an recent decision, the Madras High Court has declared that there is no right with the temple authorities to refuse to pass the vehicle of deity from colonies inhabited by dalits. The temple authorities had filed writ petitions before the High Court challenging the decision of the local authorities which had directed the temple authorities to pass the chariot of the deities from such routes. 

The temple authorities had argued that "Arulmighu Poottai Mariamman Temple is an age old temple and was in existence for over a century. Poojas were performed in the said temple as per Agamas. All religious festivals, including the procession of the deity, Car festival were performed strictly as per the custom. One of the main festival of the temple is the annual "Ther Thiruvizha" (car Festival) which is conducted during the Tamil month of Aadi. As per Agama Sastras, various steps are to be taken to perform the Poojas and rituals. On the last Friday of the Tamil month of Aadi, the procession of the Deity will be taken through streets will be preceded by fire works and other religious activities. The deity will be decorated and will be on the Temple Car and taken through the customary route namely, Middle Street West, North Street and the street behind the temple, Mettu Street. It was also taken to Sembarampattu village through north, east, south and west streets. After a night halt at Sembarampattu village, the deity will return to the Poottai village via Mettu Street and will reach the temple. It is claimed that from time immemorial, the deity is taken on procession in the Temple Car only on the chartered route. The said street is also called as the Car Street. The villagers irrespective of caste, creed, community and gender are allowed to offer worship without any discrimination. According to the petitioner- Trustees, certain persons in the Village are obstructing the customary route and are claiming that the deity should also be taken through their streets in the village Colony.

The High Court, however, was not impressed. Deciding against the temple authorites, it inter alia declared the law as under;
In the absence of any established custom and right, there is no scope for the trustees to assert a right of taking the temple car through a particular route thereby denying the right of the colony Dalits from worshipping the deity in the colony itself. ...

26. In the light of the above said judgment, the attempt by the Trustees to prevent the Dalits from taking the temple car to the Colony during the Temple Car festival held during the month of Aadi cannot be accepted by this Court. Any such order in their favour will amount to perpetuating untouchability which has been specifically prohibited by Article 17 of the Constitution of India. The temple Trustees have failed to establish any custom or usage in charting the route for the deity to be taken in the temple Car. For the last three years due to their intransigence and caste supremacy, the festival has been stopped. It is not as if there is no place in the colony by which the deity can reach the dalit, but there is place in the heart of the caste Hindus of the village to accept the dalits as Their brethren so as to have a whole community worship. In such circumstances, the Government cannot be a spectator in denying the rights of the dalits of the colony and the constitutional mandate will have to be enforced through all legal means.

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