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TDB says removal of Sabarimala Tantri not discussed

By Smriti Pathak

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 12: Amid media reports that the LDF government in Kerala planned to remove the Sabarimala tantri, Travancore Devaswom Board, the apex temple body,Friday said it had not even discussed the matter and the controversy was to create trouble in the coming 'Makaravilakku' festival.

TDB says removal of Sabarimala Tantri not discussed

TDB president A Padmakumar told PTI that there were several court verdicts on the appointment and powers of the tantri (head priest) of Hindu shrines and the Board could not take a decision without taking into account all these.

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However, the Kerala Tantri Samajam, an umbrella organisation of head priests of temples in the state, Thursday said that they would approach the Supreme Court and the union government if the CPI(M)-led LDF government takes any decision to remove Kandararu Rajeevaru as the Sabarimala tantri.

Rajeevaru faced harsh criticism from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran and other ministers over the purification ceremony he carried out after the entry of two women of menstruating age at the hill shrine last week.

Senior Kerala minister G Sudhakaran had even called him a "Brahmin monster" for conducting the 'purification'.

"The tantri is a symbol of caste devil. He is not a Brahmin. He is a Brahmin monster. If a Brahmin becomes a monster, he will be a terror," the minister had said.

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After 42-year-old Bindu, a college lecturer and CPI(ML) activist from Kozhikode district's Koyilandy, and Kanakadurga, 44, a civil supplies department employee from Angadipuram in Malappuram, offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple on January 2, the sanctum sanctorum was closed under tantri's directive to perform the 'purification' ritual, which used to be carried out during the time of the violation of temple customs.

There were media reports suspecting a move from the CPI(M)-led LDF government and the TDB, the autonomous apex temple body which manages the Sabarimala hill shrine,to remove Rajeevaru and that a list had been prepared of head priests who had expressed willingness to be the tantri.

"The Board has not discussed the removal of Rajeevaru. We have only given notice to the tantri, seeking an explanation regarding the purification ritual. Let him give his reply.Now the focus is only on Makaravilakku, which falls on January 14," Padmakumar said.

He alleged that some vested interests, who were deliberately trying to create trouble during the Makaravilakku season, were behind these controversies.

"How can we remove the Sabarimala tantri all of a sudden? We have the Devaswom Manual. There are two Supreme Court verdicts and several High Court rulings regarding the powers and appointments of the head priests," he said.

"We can take a decision only after taking into account all of these. This is a complicated matter," the TDB chief added.

Meanwhile, Kerala Tantri Samajam leader Akkeeramon Kalidasa Bhattathiripad said a tantri is the custodian of the rituals and traditions of a Hindu shrine and he could not be simply removed through a Government Order.

"The relation between the tantri, temple and deity begins since the identification of the land for the shrine. He can be kept away from the temple affairs only in extraordinary situations like if any complaint arises regarding his character," he told PTI.

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Any attempt to remove the Sabarimala tantri would be tantamount to an "infringement" into the rituals and traditions of Hinduism, he said.

"If the state government makes any such move, we will oppose it firmly and approach the apex court against it. We will also seek the intervention of the Centre as Sabarimala is a national pilgrim centre," he said.

The Samajam also plans to hold a meeting of head priests of renowned Hindu shrines of South India on January 22 in Kochi to discuss the present developments and check reported attempts to "destroy" the Hindu culture and traditions.

The over two-month-long annual pilgrim season at Sabarimala will culminate with the auspicious Makaravilakku on January 14.

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