The renaming of the famous Sabarimala temple twice in the past 15 months has kicked up a controversy with many prominent citizens representing key stakeholders at Sabarimala taking strong exception to it.
“The two mutually inverted decisions, taken within a short span of 15 months by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), first to change the official name of the Sabarimala temple from ‘Sree Dharma Sastha Temple’ to ‘Sree Ayyappa Temple’ and then vice versa, under the presidency of the Congress nominee Prayar Gopalakrishnan and the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) nominee A. Padmakumar, respectively, prima facie recalls the proverbially historic ‘Tughlaq culture’,” said P. Rama Varma Raja, chairman of the Pandalam Palace Managing Committee.
Talking to The Hindu, the PPMC chairman said both the moves could be seen only as part of continued overstepping by the TDB of the mandate it enjoyed in managing temples.
“It is another matter that the Sastha temples and Ayyappa temples often use the names interchangeably, based on the close links between the Sastha legends and Ayyappa history. But, the two renaming processes have only added to controversies already bedevilling the forest shrine at Sabarimala. These are neither devotee-centric nor would they strengthen or weaken the litigation pending before the Supreme Court of India [on the entry of women to the shrine],” Mr. Raja said.
Mr. Raja said the TDB and the government should give due priority to the opinions and the right of the Pandalam Palace in matters related to Sabarimala.
The Nair Service Society has also taken serious exception to the TDB’s move to rename the temple. The NSS’s general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair has cautioned that the temple authority should not venture into such misadventures at Sabarimala, sidelining the unique tradition, rites and religious practices there, as it could only make the sacred grove of Lord Ayyappa a centre of avoidable controversy.
The Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom (ABASS) national vice-president D. Vijayakumar said that Ayyappa devotees were deeply hurt over the TDB’s irresponsible move in executing the political agenda of government nominees in the temple’s administrative body. Former TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan, said the presiding deity at Sabarimala is Sree Ayyappa and the temple rituals have been arranged taking the deity as Ayyappa, a perpetual celibate (‘Naishtika Brahmachari’).