Around 30-35 Sabarimala pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, who traditionally visit temples like Rameswaram, Palani, Madurai, and Srirangam as part of their pilgrimage, were reportedly attacked by HR and CE staff after chanting “Govinda Govinda” within the Sri Rangam temple premises.The shocking incident has raised concerns about the government’s approach towards Hindu sentiments and the sanctity of temple premises.
The situation escalated when the temple staff, allegedly appointed to manage the crowd, confronted the devotees for chanting. The chanting of “Govinda Govinda” is a common expression of devotion among Ayyappa devotees. The temple official asked them to refrain from chanting and maintain silence, leading to a verbal argument that turned physical.
In a viral video shared by temple activist Rangarajan Narasimhan, the chaotic scene unfolds with blood spilled near the sanctum sanctorum. One devotee, identified as Chenna Rao, suffered a broken nose, and his blood was seen on the temple floor. The altercation resulted in chaos, prompting the temple administration to close the temple for the time being.
As the incident unfolded, the injured devotees, along with Rao, were taken to the police station for discussions with the temple administration. Both sides filed complaints against each other, with devotees demanding the arrest of temple guards responsible for the attack and the guards seeking action against the devotees.
Expressing condemnation, a BJP cadre called the incident atrocious, emphasising the need for a thorough investigation and accountability. The incident has reignited concerns about the interference of government bodies in religious practises and the treatment of devotees in Hindu temples.
The closure of the Sri Rangam temple was deemed necessary for purification rituals (homam) and a repartition ritual (punyavajanam) following the blood spill on the holy premises. The decision to close the temple for purification reflects the sacred importance attached to maintaining the sanctity of the temple space.
This incident follows a previous report about the HR and CE department’s notice board denying permission for the Sabarimalai Ayyappa rituals at a temple in Perambur, further intensifying debates about the government’s role in religious affairs.
The Sri Rangam episode has garnered attention on social media platforms, with many expressing anguish over the mistreatment of devotees. The incident adds to the growing list of grievances from the Hindu community regarding alleged government interference and insensitivity towards their religious beliefs.
கேட்பதற்கு ஆளில்லை என்று இருந்த ஓர் சனாதன இந்துவிற்கு, எந்த மதத்தினராக இருந்தாலும் அநீதி நடந்தால் நான் இருக்கிறேன் என்று முதல்வர் வந்து நிற்கும் பாரதிய ஜனதா கட்சி தமிழ்நாட்டில் மாநில தலைவர் திரு.@annamalai_k
மீண்டும் மோடி வேண்டும் @narendramodi !. ஊழலற்ற ஆட்சிக்கு… pic.twitter.com/YIH5FZl6pI
— KRS Pozichalur (@KRS_Pozichalur) December 12, 2023
Condemning the incident, BJP Tamil Nadu President K Annamalai lambasted the DMK government and the HR&CE department.
A government which has no faith in Hindu Dharma has no business to be in Hindu Temples.
The Iyyappa devotees who have had 42 days of Vrath, with all devotion, wanted to pray to Ranganatha Swamy after their return from Sabarimala.
The Iyyappa devotees questioned the long wait… pic.twitter.com/4BbNii9La5
— K.Annamalai (@annamalai_k) December 12, 2023
Annamalai, BJP Tamil Nadu state chief, expressed his concern over the mistreatment of devotees and criticised the “arrogance” displayed by the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) department. He highlighted this incident as one among many reasons why the BJP has been advocating for the removal of the HR and CE department from temple administration.
“The Iyyappa devotees questioned the long wait in the queue and special treatment to a select few who were assaulted near the sanctum sanctorum, which resulted in bloodshed inside the Temple premises. This arrogance of the HR&CE department is one of the many reasons why BJP Tamil Nadu has been wanting them out of Temple administration,” said Annamalai.
In response to the incident, the Trichy unit of the BJP has announced plans to protest against the HR and CE Department. Annamalai emphasized that the protest aims to demand the strictest action against those responsible for jeopardizing the sanctity of the temple.
As the Sri Rangam Ranganathaswamy Temple gears up for the annual Vaikunta Ekadasi festival on December 23, 2023, the recent incident has added to the concerns surrounding the influx of devotees. The temple, witnessing a significant crowd due to the ongoing Sabarimalai season, has been preparing for the Pagal Pathu (10-day Day festival), starting tomorrow, where pundits will recite poems from the Nalayira Divya Prabhantham, sung by 12 alwars in praise of the deity.
However, the temple has faced challenges beyond the recent assault. On December 8, 2023, a lorry purportedly owned by the Trichy City Corporation caused substantial damage to an ancient wall and reliefs while attempting to navigate through one of the temple towers (gopurams) on the western side.
The HR and CE department have been embroiled in controversies, accused of imposing exorbitant fees on devotees, particularly affecting the economically disadvantaged. The department’s activities are criticized for deviating from the mandated responsibilities under the HR and CE Act. Last month, Hindu Munnani leaders faced arrest in Mylapore for chanting ‘Om Namashivaya’ and submitting prayer petitions in temples, highlighting the alleged suppression of religious freedom.
Over the last two and a half years, more than 200 temples have reportedly been demolished under the pretext of encroaching government lands, raising concerns about the selective targeting of Hindu temples. This has sparked debates over the preservation of religious heritage and the equitable treatment of different religious institutions.
As devotees seek justice and accountability for the assault, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by Hindus in preserving their religious customs and traditions in the face of perceived government overreach. The broader implications of such incidents are likely to fuel ongoing discussions about the need for a balanced approach that respects religious sentiments and traditions while addressing administrative concerns.