THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: By writing to the Union government demanding forest land to build a temple at Ponnambalamedu, where the annual “makaravilakku” is lit and worshipped by lakhs of devotees standing at Sabarimala Sannidhanam and on the foothills, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) president Prayar Gopalakrishnan has once again locked horns with the LDF government.

In his letter, to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, requested for the release of one acre land at Ponnambalmedu that falls in the Periyar Tiger Reserve to set up the temple.

According to the president the temple is not for worship but to preserve the sanctity of the location. ‘Pilgrims will not be allowed to visit the shrine,’ he said.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran has severely criticised the TDB president, appointed by the previous UDF government, for taking unilateral decisions and overstepping its limits.

“The president is learnt to have stated that there won’t be any worship at the new temple. Then what is the temple for,” Kadakampally wondered.

The minister said his enquiries revealed that there wasn’t any temple at  Ponnambalamedu in the past. The Pandalam royal family too have opined that the  move is against tradition and customs, Kadakampally said.

“The TDB’s duty, as envisaged in the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious  Institutions Act is to ensure the conduct of existing rituals.Board president is a political appointment and how can he take a  unilateral decision? How can he announce the construction of a temple like the way he changed the name of Sabarimala temple? How can he send a letter to the centre without the consent of the government?,” Kadakampally asked.

In November 2016, Prayar had invited the wrath of the government by changing the name of the temple from Sree Dharma Sastha Temple to Sabarimala Sree Ayyappaswamy temple.

Prayar’s explanation that he had only reinstated the original name of the temple did not go down well with government.

In March same year, the TDB president took on chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a meeting to review the arrangements for Sabarimala pilgrimage. Prayar then opposed the chief minister’s suggestions including daily opening of the shrine.

Prayar playing “super board”

Meanwhile, LDF-appointed TDB member K Raghavan has come out against Prayar for taking decisions without the consent of the board. “President’s unilateral ways should be checked. No one should be allowed to act as “super board”.

Government should take steps to revise the Devaswom manual and prevent corrupt practices in the board,” he said.

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