BENGALURU: After imposing a dress code for devotees visiting the renowned Shree Mangaladevi temple in Mangaluru recently, right-wing activists have now done the same at the Shree Kalikamba temple. A board at the entrance of the temple in Kengeri announces to people what is right to wear and what not while getting in, and declares that the dress code be strictly followed.Recently, a group of women were seen at the temple in Kengeri telling devotees to dress properly when they visit the temple. The move comes, according to sources, following the demand from Ranaragini – a women-only Hindutva group that was formed in April.

Speaking of their diktat, Bhavya Gowda of Ranaragini said, “We want to create awareness among people to come in traditional Indian attire while visiting temples. This is essentially to maintain the sanctity of a temple. Men should ideally wear pyjamas, dhoti etc and women should come in a saree or churidhar and thus, protect our culture.”

The dress code bans devotees from going into a temple in shorts, jeans or tee-shirts.
Earlier, the group had submitted a memorandum to the trustee of the Mangaladevi temple to display the request to devotees to follow a dress code both in the sanctum sanctorum and courtyard of the temple. Of this, Mohan Gowda, Bengaluru coordinator of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, said, “These days, due to ignorance, both men and women wear vulgar clothes to temple. This is why we decided to start a campaign all over the state. We have been getting a lot of support from temples across the state and from those in Bengaluru.”

Mahadevaiah, president of the Kalikamba temple trust told BM, “We have been requesting visitors to follow the dress code and on Friday right-wing activists created awareness on the same among visitors of the temple. They also spoke about traditional values and how one should follow a code of conduct inside a temple. This is extremely essential to maintain the sanctity of the temple.”

Coordinator of Forum against Atrocities on Women and Citizens Forum for Mangalore Development, Vidya Dinker begged to differ over the issue. “This is a ridiculous diktat. And if you insist on imposing a dress code on women visiting temples that you feel is appropriate to Indian culture, then what men are wearing to the temple (pants and jeans) is certainly not traditional attire. There cannot be discrimination amongst the devout. You cannot single out women for a particular dress code. I strongly object to this singling out of women for arbitrary restrictions. If they think that god or devotees are getting distracted by what women wear, then I would say, I am distracted by the priest doing the puja. He and men around me at temples are moving about topless .Don’t women have eyes and don’t we get distracted? The temple `archaks’ should be wearing kurtas or any other kind of traditional garment that hides their torso. We can also get distracted from our prayers looking at naked chests around us in temples. What is good for women is good for the men, and what some women and men want to impose on all women, I would like that to be imposed on our fellow men too. Only then would I even consider it without summarily rejecting any such initiative,” said Vidya.

Former Dakshina Kannada Child Welfare Committee chairperson and advocate Asha Nayak terms a temple a public place of worship.”Dress code is a personal issue. The belief is that god sees everybody as equal. Devotees go there for prayers. How one goes to the temple must be seen with a purity of heart and mind. This is a free country. It is also violation of the Constitution. Only in a homogenous institution like a school or a college, can authorities dictate terms,”she said.

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