In a well-calculated move to eliminate Sanskrit mantras from Temple rituals and in the name of promoting Tamil, the TN government has come out with a SOP for archakas. It announced to pay 60 per cent of archanai ticket fare collected by the temples under the administration of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) to the Archakars (priests) performing archani in Tamil to promote poojas in Tamil.
Replying to the debate on demand for grants for his department in the Assembly on 5th May, Minister of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments PK Sekarbabu said, “To promote Annai Tamizhil Vazhibadu ( Mother Tamil Worship) scheme, 60 per cent of archanai ticket share will be given to the Archakas who perform Tamil mantras.” Currently, the department pays 10 per cent of the ticket share for performing the archanai in Tamil, which is available in 48 major temples.
Sekarbabu made a whopping 165 announcements covering the establishment of goshalas to state-sponsored pilgrimage from Rameswaram to Kasi for 200 pilgrims per year and the development of rope cars for hill temples and consecration of temples. He said that the day-long Anna Daan scheme would be extended to Ramanathswamy Temple in Rameswaram, Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai and Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai.
The Minister also announced that the Annadaan scheme would be introduced in 10 more temples and Annadaan halls would be constructed in 14 temples at Rs 11 crore. Sekar Babu, who touted that the DMK regime as the golden era of the department, said that Oru Kala Pooja( one scheme will be extended to 2,000 more financially weak temples at the cost of Rs 40 crore and archakas working in the temples would be provided with an incentive of Rs 1,000 per month.
He said HR and CE would launch a free breakfast scheme for the students of schools and colleges run by Dhandayudhapani Swamy temple in Palani which would benefit 3,000 students.
The Minister also announced new Raja Gopurams for Bannari Mariamman Temple in Erode, Elaiyaperumal Temple in Namakkal, Vanabathra Kaliamman Temple in Coimbatore, Koneswaraswamy Temple in Tiruvarur, Angalamman Temple in Namakkal and Kailasanathar Temple in Tiruvarur.
The Minister said would construct commercial complexes in 21 temples at Rs.30 crore to augment the revenue of the temples.
Last year, Babu announced that Hindus of all castes would be appointed as priests in over 36,000 temples under its department. He said women could also be appointed as priests in temples following stipulated training. He also said women priests would be appointed. These announcements have triggered heated debates in the state. The appointments are against the SC verdict. Many believe that the government should not interfere with agama sastra — a manual for temples that have norms related to pujas and other rituals in temples besides guidelines on structure and construction of shrines. Recently, hereditary Brahmin priests were sacked, and non Brahmin priests were appointed. During one year of rule, many Hindu temples were razed to remove encroachments but left the churches and mosques untouched.
“Government on the one hand, is trying very hard to appease the minorities by acting against Hindus, their culture, spiritual beliefs; also taking make-believe efforts to prove it is a pro -Hindu. DMK, which claims a rationalist and Dravidian stock, pokes its nose in Hindu temple affairs. In other religious practices like ‘no Arabic prayers in mosques’, will it do the same? Questions Murali from Virugambakkam.