Precedent Set? Madras HC Directs Restoration Of Hindu Temple To Its Buddhist Character

by Ujjawal Mishra - Aug 4, 2022 10:01 PM +05:30 IST
Precedent Set? Madras HC Directs Restoration Of Hindu Temple To Its Buddhist CharacterMadras High Court

The Madras High Court decreed the Archaeological Department to take control of the Thalaivetti Muniyappan Temple in Salem district after it was found that the presiding deity was Lord Buddha.

Context: The HC was hearing the plea of Buddha Trust in Salem, which prayed for a direction to the ASI to conduct an inspection of the said sculpture at Thalaivetti Muniyappan temple and submit a report to the court as to its identity and antiquity.

  • The judge had directed the Commissioner of the State Archaeological Department to inspect the temple and sculpture.

  • The Commissioner, after inspection, came to the conclusion that the sculpture depicted the 'mahalakshanas' (great traits) of Lord Buddha.

The court's observations: The judge observed that it will not be appropriate to permit the HR&CE Department to continue to treat this sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan.

The judge remarked that the mistaken identity can no longer be allowed to continue after the inspection report has laid bare the facts.

The court directed that the original status must be restored.

  • It said permitting the HR&CE Department to continue to treat the sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan will not be appropriate and will go against the very tenets of Buddhism.

  • The Commissioner of the Archaeological Department was directed to take control of the property and maintain it.

  • He shall also erect a board inside the property saying the sculpture is that of the Buddha.

  • The general public can also be permitted to visit the place and it shall be ensured that no poojas or other ceremonies are allowed to be performed for the sculpture of the Buddha, the judge said.

Why this matters: The judgement sets an important precedent in cases where the original nature of the place of worship is disputed.

It will also be worth observing how this judgment of the Madras HC affects the Places of Worship Act, 1991, which freezes the character of the religious places as on 15 August 1947.

Ujjawal Mishra is editorial intern at Swarajya. He tweets @Ujjawal1Mishra.
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