In a historic statement, the tantri (head priest) of the Guruvayur temple has stated that non-Hindus should be allowed in the temple and that the Kerala government should take the necessary measures for the same.
It appears Kerala is going through a temple revolution of sorts. In a series of commendable moves, several customs, which are hundreds of years old, are making way according to the changing times.
It all started with the Travancore Devaswom Board clearing the appointment of 36 non-Brahmins, including six Dalits, as the priests at temples under the board across the state earlier this month.
The revolutionary decision saw 22-year-old Yedu Krishnan, who hails from Thrissur, taking charge as the priest at a Shiva temple near Thiruvalla and scripting history by becoming the first Dalit priest to assume duties at a sanctum sanctorum in the state.
The decision has given a new vigour to the age-old debate on whether Sabarimala temple should allow entry to women of all ages. As per existing norms, women aged between 10 and 50 - those who are in menstruating age - are barred from entering the temple, which many see as a clear case of discrimination against women.
The Sree Krishna temple in Guruvayur is arguably the most popular temple in Kerala after Sabarimala. Though several temples in the state have signs saying non-Hindus should not enter it, few of them enforce it as strictly as the Guruvayur temple authorities do.
The debate over the ban on non-Hindus entering the Guruvayur temple began around 30 years ago when singer Yesudas, who was set to take part in a music programme at the temple, was stopped at the gate. The world-renowned singer finally had to sing his bhajans from outside the temple's walls.
Yesudas, who has sung dozens of devotional songs for Guruvayur temple, has requested permission to see the deity multiple times but was turned down. Currently, a non-Hindu needs to get certification from the Arya Samajam in Kozhikode, stating his or her acceptance of Hindu faith to gain entry into the Guruvayur temple.
“All customs need to change according to the times. Such changes are made not for any individuals but for the society at large. I think the state government should discuss and take a decision on allowing entry to non-Hindus to Guruvayur,” Guruvayur tantri Dinesan Namboothirippad said on Monday. He also said that a detailed manual regarding this should be prepared after consultation with pandit communities and tantris.
Despite the promising statements from the tantri, entry to non-Hindus will not get the green light till the Guruvayur Devaswom Board, which is the governing body of the temple, takes a stand on the issue. The state government is unlikely to interfere in the matter till the Guruvayur Devaswom makes a call on the policy.
However, the tantri's statements have shown that at least some of the temple's priests are now open to the idea of non-Hindus entering the shrine, giving hope that the decades old debate can soon be settled.