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Even as Governor R. N. Ravi and the dikshitar community have denied the reports of child marriages at the Chidambaram Thillai Natarajar temple, a video of a child marriage held at the temple precincts has been doing the rounds in the media and social media, sparking debates.  Against this background, Panneer Perumal, a writer who wrote a series of articles arguing for government control of temples (read it here, here and here) for, in an interview alleged that the dikshitar have been deliberately politicizing the issue.

Also Read: Child marriage row: Podhu Dikshitars face off with TN govt again

He said a person connected with the particular child marriage has released the video.  Child marriage being a cognizable offence, it is the government’s responsibility to crack down on such practices and arrest the people involved. He wondered at why the brouhaha over the child marriage when nothing stringent or condemnable like lock-up death has happened in the Chidambaram temple issue as it happened in the arrest of the father-son duo at Sattankulam a few years ago.

Panneer Perumal said it was not wrong at all on the part of the police to hold inquiries with the witnesses. The DGP has denied the allegation that the girl children connected with the issue have tried to commit suicide, he said. It is the dikshitar, who, enthused by the Governor’s support, are blackmailing the government, claiming themselves as a minority religious denomination.  The government has not sidelined them. In fact, they have insulated themselves from the mainstream, he said, adding that lest they should be bereft of their ‘own’ temple properties, they are using their children as their shields.

Child marriage being a cognizable offence, it is the government’s responsibility to crack down on such practices and arrest the people involved

The Supreme Court had left the temple administration to the dikshitar community. In this situation, why does the Tamil Nadu government attempt to take over the administration?  Panneer  Perumal answered saying that while the temples under the control of the HR&CE department are being administered in a transparent manner, the Chidambaram temple has no such transparency. It owns 200 acres of land and has been earning a lot from its various rituals like ‘tiruvilakku pooja’.  Unwilling to part with the land and revenue, the dikshitars are adamantly sticking to the administration of the temple, Panneer Perumal said.

The Chidambaram temple had for long been under the control of kings and the four prominent Saivite sage-poets (Appar, Tirugnanasambandhar, Sundarar and Manickavasagar) composed poetry on it. Such a temple of heritage and history, which is, in truth, the common property of the people, cannot be allowed to be in the custody of a particular community, he said.  Ironically, the temple, which was sung about in glowing terms by the Tamil sage-poets, has no space for singing of the Devaram hymns including Tiruvasagam whereas archanas in Tamil are in vogue in all temples under the control of the HR & CE, he pointed out. For accommodating the Tamil archanas and hymns in the Chidambaram temple, court battles had to be resorted to.

Perumal said maintenance leaves much to be desired; there have been instances of attacks on the devotees and ‘oduvar’ Arumugam, though a Saivite devotee, was prohibited from singing hymns before the deity of Lord Siva in the temple.

Fundamentally there is no connection between the temple and the dikshitar, Panneer Perumal said. At the time when Nandanar, one of the 63 celebrated Nayanmars, was burnt, there were no dikshitar, but other brahmins who were administering the temple.  The word dishitar did not figure in the devotional compositions of either Nayanmars or Azhwars.

While the revenue and other details regarding the HR & CE temples are made public in websites, the Chidambaram temple affairs are shrouded in secrecy

While the revenue and other details regarding the HR & CE temples are made public in websites, the Chidambaram temple affairs are shrouded in secrecy, Perumal said. As the temples were once under the control of kings, it is natural that they continue to be under the custody and care of the government. Batting criticism that such campaigns for government ownership are restricted to Hindu temples, Panneer Perumal said that just as the mosques are under the control of the Waqf Board, the churches too should be brought under the government control. A demand in this regard has been put forward to the government, he remarked.

History says that Raja Rajan-I’s family had donated lands and assets to the Chidambaram temple. As the temple’s assets are basically the people’s, the government tries to bring it under its administration, he said, adding that no public assets have been donated to churches.

There are complaints of child marriages from several places. But why does the government focus on those illegal rituals in the Chidambaram temple alone?

Panneer Perumal said that there were 23 complaints of child marriages conducted in Cuddalore. But investigations conducted subsequently found no substance in 19 complaints.  The remaining four complaints have got great attention because the Governor himself has intervened, denying the allegations of child marriages in the Chidambaram temple.

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