Madras HC Directs Restoring Temple In Salem To Its Original Buddhist Character—Has An Important Precedent Just Been Set?

by Swarajya Staff - Aug 3, 2022 09:42 PM +05:30 IST
Madras HC Directs Restoring Temple In Salem To Its Original Buddhist Character—Has An Important Precedent Just Been Set? Madras High Court
Snapshot
  • Can this ruling of the Hon'ble Madras HC be used in other ongoing cases where the original nature of the place of worship is under dispute?

The Madras High Court, hearing the plea of Buddha Trust in Salem, decreed the Archaeological Department to take control of the Thalaivetti Muniyappan Temple in Salem district. The Court found that the temple was originally a Buddhist shrine and the presiding deity was Lord Buddha, who was being worshipped as Thalaivertti Muniappan.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh, who made the declaration after perusing an inspection report submitted by the Commissioner of Archaeological department, also directed the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) to hand over possession of the temple to the department.

The judge was allowing a writ petition from the 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 the sculpture.

The Commissioner after inspecting and carefully analysing the sculpture came to the categorical conclusion that the sculpture depicted the 'mahalakshanas' (great traits) of Lord Buddha.

The judge observed that after having received such a report, it will not be appropriate to permit the HR&CE department to continue to treat this sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan, and that the mistaken identity can no longer be allowed to continue after coming to the conclusion that the sculpture is that of Lord Buddha.

The Hon'ble Court observed, in view of the same, that the original status must be restored and permitting the HR&CE department to continue to treat the sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan will not be appropriate and it will go against the very tenets of Buddhism, and directed the Commissioner of Archaeological department to take control of the property and maintain it.

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

The judgement sets an important precedent in the cases where the original nature of the place of worship is under dispute. It will also be worth observing how this judgment of the Madras HC affects the Places of Worship Act, 1991 that freezes the character of the religious places as on August 15, 1947.

(with inputs from PTI)

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