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Kerala HC : Politics Has No Role to Play in the Conduct of Festivals in Temples

The Kerala High Court has observed that the government cannot insist that only ‘politically neutral’ colored decorative materials are used for temple festivals.

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 15 (BPNS)

The Kerala High Court has observed that the government cannot insist that only ‘politically neutral’ colored decorative materials are used for temple festivals. It was while considering the writ petitions related to the conduct of the Kaliyoottu festival at Major Vellayani Bhadrakali Devi Temple, that a division bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and PG Ajithkumar made the said observation.

Meanwhile, the court also underscored that a worshipper or a devotee has no legal right to insist that saffron/orange colored decorative materials alone are used for festivals in a temple under the management of the Travancore
Devaswom Board.

The court also highlighted that politics has no role to play in the conduct of daily worship and ceremonies and festivals in temples.

Earlier, a direction was issued by the Nemom Police Station to stop the decoration work and laying of arches, festoons, and tinsels with saffron colors. It further demanded the use of multi-colored decorations on the temple premises. This directive came in for sharp criticism from the right-wing camp.

An altercation between police and RSS activists has also been reported as the latter pulled down a temporary police aid post set up at the temple premises the other day.

At the same time, the police took the stance in the court that during previous years there were disputes between rival groups of devotees supported by
political parties regarding putting up arches, flags, decorations, festoons, etc.

The police said that it had acted only on an order issued by the district magistrate (district collector, Thiruvananthapuram) on February 10 that only ‘politically neutral’ colors will have to be used in  the decorations made
in connection with the festival in Major Vellayani Bhadrakali Devi Temple, to avoid provocation from other groups.

The police also pointed out that it had not made any restrictions on using saffron in the rituals such as Nilathilporu, Paranettu, etc, and had insisted
only to use saffron with other colors in the decorations in public places.

Meanwhile, those who challenge the directive of the district magistrate alleged that the officials including police are creating trouble in the conduct of the temple festival, misusing their powers, under the influence of the local Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers.

At this juncture, the court cited a judgment made by it in another case which stated that  festivals in temples are to be conducted following the custom,
ritual and practices of the temple concerned. Interference with the conduct of such festivals by police authorities, in whatever manner is unfortunate and uncalled for.

“The District Administration or the police cannot meddle with the power of the Travancore Devaswom Board in conducting Kaliyoottu festival in accordance with the custom, rituals, and practices of that temple” reads an excerpt from the judgment.

It further added, “However, in case there is an apprehension of any untoward incident in the temple premises or the near vicinity of the temple, that may hamper the law and order situation, which would affect the smooth conduct of the festival, it will be open to the Travancore Devaswom Board to take up the matter appropriately before the police authorities.”

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