The proposed names, “Kalvaari Mala” and “Yesu Mala,” have sparked outrage among the Hindu community. The situation has escalated with allegations of unauthorised Christian prayer meetings and divisive rhetoric, leading to confrontations, police cases, and heightened tension.
Chennimalai, also known as Siragiri and Chenniyangiri, has deep historical and cultural significance in the Erode district. It is a sacred abode of Lord Muruga, and the revered hymn ‘Kanda Sashti Kavacham’ was first performed here by Sri Bala Devaraya Swamigal. The proposed renaming has stirred distress among Hindus, who have cherished this place for generations.
Unauthorised Christian Prayer Meetings
In the predominantly Hindu community of Chennimalai, unauthorised Christian prayer meetings have been a source of tension. These gatherings aimed at promoting the Christian faith have drawn attendees from outside the town. Disparaging comments about Hindu deities were made through loudspeakers during these meetings, deeply offending Hindu residents.
The situation escalated on September 17 when members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Hindu Munnani confronted the unauthorised prayer meetings, insisting on proper permissions. This confrontation led to a physical altercation, resulting in a police case with charges, including attempted murder.
Various Christian organizations and political groups, including the Revolutionary Youth Front, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), and MDMK, have demanded action against those opposing the prayer meetings. During a Christian demonstration on September 26, speakers expressed intent to rename the Chennimalai Murugan Temple hill, further fueling tensions.
Hindu Outfits’ Response
Hindu outfits, led by the Hindu Munnani, have strongly condemned the proposed renaming and offensive rhetoric against Hindu gods. They have accused the Christian Munnani of undertaking these actions with the support of certain local politicians. The issue has now transformed into a religious matter, distressing Muruga devotees and prompting further demonstrations and tensions in the area.
In response to the proposed renaming and the religious tensions, thousands of devotees of Lord Muruga have embarked on a pada yatra, a foot march, to Chennimalai. Initially, the police denied them permission, but after lengthy arguments, they were allowed to proceed. Devotees are marching with slogans in praise of Lord Muruga and are expected to reach the venue by October 13, 2023.
Support from Indu Makkal Katchi (IMK)
The Indu Makkal Katchi (IMK) has released a video on social media featuring a public speaker named Manjunathan expressing strong disapproval of the proposal to rename the sacred Hindu place of worship. He emphasized Chennimalai’s historical and cultural significance in the Erode district and called for support for the protest against the divisive proposal.
Similar Incidents in Tamil Nadu: Legal Proceedings and Court Rulings
The Chennimalai controversy is not an isolated incident in Tamil Nadu. There have been ongoing disputes related to religious sites, encroachments, and attempts to rename sacred places, particularly involving Hindu temples and hills. These incidents have led to longstanding tensions and demands for government intervention.
In a series of contentious incidents affecting Tamil Nadu’s heritage and religious sites, allegations of land encroachments and disputes have captured the public’s attention. These ongoing disputes have caused unrest among the local communities, sparking legal battles and debates.
Located approximately 95 kilometers from Chennai along the Chennai-Trichy highway, the Vajragiri hill is home to the sacred Pasupathiswarar temple. Local Hindus have alleged that they have been denied access to the temple due to encroachments on the hill. Efforts to reclaim the area from the encroachers have been ongoing for several years, drawing attention to the issue’s complexity and sensitivity.
The religious organisation, Jesus Redeems, has acquired 108 acres of land in the mountainous region of Thoranamalai, near Kadayam in the Tenkasi district. They have plans to establish a modern city with comprehensive amenities on this land. According to the Jesus Redeems website, the founder, Brother Mohan C Lazarus, claimed to have received divine guidance to acquire this mountainous area. The land was donated by a devotee, raising questions about the nature of the acquisition.
In a highly contentious case, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court recently refused to halt Islamic activities, including namaz, on the Thiruparankundram hill, which is also home to the Sri Subramanya Swamy temple. This dispute has intensified as some groups seek to rename the hill as ‘Sikkandar hill,’ alleging a saint by that name passed away on the hill. The court’s decision to permit namaz activities for 30 minutes, particularly during Bakrid, has ignited tensions in the region. Thiruparankundram is one of the six abodes of Lord Muruga, making this a matter of significant religious importance.
Local Hindu organizations have long been opposing such encroachments and are urging the government to take action in removing the encroachers. They contend that such incidents are part of a larger pattern and are jeopardizing Tamil Nadu’s heritage and religious sites. These disputes continue to simmer and have become emblematic of the broader challenges faced by religious and heritage sites in the region.
Legal proceedings and court rulings have played a role in shaping these disputes. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court refused to stay namaz and other Islamic activities on Thiruparankundram hill, where the Sri Subramanya Swamy temple is located. This emboldened certain groups to carry out activities on the hill, leading to allegations of encroachment and opposition from Hindu outfits.
The attempt to rename the Chennimalai Murugan Temple, the unauthorised Christian prayer meetings, and the ensuing tensions have created a complex and sensitive situation in Tamil Nadu. As devotees march to Chennimalai in protest and various political and religious groups become involved, the issue continues to evolve. The broader context of similar incidents in the state and legal challenges underscores the complexity of religious matters in the region, demanding attention and resolution from all stakeholders.