A DMK councillor has obstructed puja in a temple and threatened the pujari for resisting her atrocities. She entered the temple in nightwear and demeaned the pujari in public. She reportedly harassed the pujari for ringing bells during puja. HRCE officials buckled under her pressure and fired the pujari on false charges.
Kannan, the pujari of Sri Sita Ramar temple in Ammapettai, Salem in Tamil Nadu shared a video on social media a few days ago. He said that the local councillor from DMK is against ringing the bells and obstructing pujas in the temple. He expressed fear that his and devotees’ lives are in danger as the councillor threatens those who support him. He also said that she has been trying to fire him by filing false complaints on him with the HRCe official of the temple.
Later the video of Manjula, the DMK councillor talking to the pujari and a few others in the temple went viral. In that video Manjula can be seen in nightwear and demeaning the pujari using disrespectful language. She continued to insult the pujari despite the devotees opposing it.
After the videos went viral and she faced criticism for her behaviour, she is said to have filed complaints against the pujari through her minions. The pujari was suspended without any investigation on false charges like keeping the temple open past the normal hours, allowing women inside the temple in the middle of the night, etc.
The pujari has said that the temple was open past 8 PM on Rama Navami as it was a special occasion. He accused Manjula of bringing her goons and threatening him for keeping the temple open after 8 PM. He also accused them of assaulting him. He denied the charge that the temple is kept open past midnight.
While the pujari says that the HRCE official is being pressurised by the councillor to take action against him, the official says that he acted of his own accord on complaints of not maintaining the temple properly, misbehaving with female devotees, not following temple/puja timings.
Councillor Manjula says that the pujari keeps the temple open past midnight and rings the bells after 10 in the night which “disturbs the studies of school, college students”. She said that she asked the pujari to not ring the bells based on “complaints from the ward members” in her capacity as a councillor. She also accused pujari Kannan of “hoarding ration rice and distributing Pongal prasadam made using that rice to the devotees”.
Manjula has leveled other charges of renting a mandapam without giving receipts and not returning silver kavach. It is to be noted that halls inside the temple cannot be rented to anyone and such things are taken care of by HRCE appointed employees. If the pujari really rented a temple hall it is unclear why only the pujari was punished.
More than 44,000 temples across the state are controlled by HRCE and they possess 5.25 lakh acre properties. HRCE has to manage these properties and collect and audit the income generated from them. This income is to be used to take care of everyday affairs of the temples. But the pujari had to use ration rice(rice distributed through the Public Distribution System for free) to cook prasad. It shows that the HRCE, while buying new cars for officials, is not allocating money to temples for pujas.
Temples ring bells only during puja time, 5 times a day at maximum for a few minutes. There are church bells that go off every hour and azaan blares through the banned cone speakers 5 times a day for half an hour each time. But according to DMK councillor Manjula, only the temple bells that too after 10 in the evening disturb the studies of children.
DMK has been trying to get rid of hereditary pujaris on the pretext of appointing non-Brahmin pujaris to achieve social justice. However, the ones appointed by DMK are trained by the government for a year or two and don’t know about the long-standing traditions of every temple.
Recently 2 pujaris working in a temple in Trichy for more than 10 years without salary were fired by the HRCE to appoint the newly minted crash course pujaris. It created an uproar as anti-Hindu leftist organisations and Christians were involved in the issue and the video of crying hereditary pujaris went viral in social media.