If the Madras High Court has its way, no devotee in Tamil Nadu can pay to ‘get closer’ to the deities in big temples.
The Madras High Court has directed the authorities of big temples in the state to ensure equal or same distance between the deities and the devotees for both ‘paid’ and ‘free’ darshans.
The move is targeting the monetary consideration in a practice, seemingly popularised by Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam, where devotees who pay are accorded preferential treatment over those who don’t, and in the bargain are permitted to get closer to the deity and stay a little longer in the sanctum.
The directive given by the first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sunder follows a public interest litigation (PIL ) filed by the Indic Collective Trust that sought direction to the HR&CE (Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments) department to regulate activities, and especially abolish privileges accorded to devotees in the “paid darshan queue” against the devotees in the “free darshan queue” at Sri Andal Temple in Srivilliputtur, Ekambaranathar Temple in Kanchipuram and Oppiliappan Temple in Thirunageswaram.
The darshan of the deity shall be provided from one and the same distance to all, the bench said, whether the devotee has paid for it or not.
Indic Collective Trust managing trustee G Aravindalochanan in the petition called this practice a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 25 of the Constitution. He said devotees must be allowed to experience the same darshan for relatively equal duration and from the same distance from the deity. Any hindrance in equal access to all the devotees irrespective of caste, gender or financial ability, will be against the right to practise religion, he said.