The panel discussion organised by Organiser debated ways to ‘Save Temple Traditions’ with prominent people who were working on the ground to revive these traditions and also fight against external forces who were out to destroy the ethos of Sanatana Dharma. Panelists expressed that saving of temples was not merely from ‘Semitic Forces’ but also from those who never understood Sanatana Dharma and the vivid learnings it has imparted through scriptures
A panel discussion on ‘Save Temple Traditions’ was arranged by Organiser Weekly at Bengaluru’s K L E Society School on January 5, 2019. There has been a focused effort to demolish traditional Hindu culture and practices by inimical anti-Hindu forces in the nation. Temples have been made targets, time and again. The Hindu temples were not mere places of worship. But it stood as a place of peace and harmony imbuing art, music and culture.
Panelists inaugurating the function by lighting the lamp
The panel discussion was to debate these issues with prominent personalities who were working on the ground to revive the traditions and also fight against external forces who would otherwise destroy the ethos of Sanatana Dharma. Saving of temples not only from ‘Semitic Forces’ but also from those who never understood Sanatana Dharma and its vivid learnings it has imparted through the holy scriptures. The Government, courts, lawmakers have been party to making fun of Sanathana Dharma.
The panel discussion started with the Editor-in-Chief of Organiser Sri Prafulla Ketkar delivering the key note address to introduce how the panel discussion would shape into and what should be the outcome at the end of such a comprehensive discussion. Prafulla Ketkar elaborated how Organiser has been bold in speaking on nationalistic issues, be it rehabilitation of Hindu refugees from Pakistan or against Article 370 of J&K or Emergency in 1975, Ramjanma Bhoomi Movement, Swadeshi Movement and broadly to reassert Dharmik values of Bharat on the edifice of Sanatana Dharma. He said how seeing Bharat through wrong spectacles has harmed the understanding of Bharatiya heritage. He opined that the idea of Bharat is not “Unity in Diversity” but understanding the unique Bharatiya culture that celebrates the diversity. While Bharat has rendered the gift of ‘divinity in all beings’ to the world, it has now been made to listen to the West on the discourse of gender equality albeit the latter has been trying to practise humanity for the last 300 years.
Audience present at the panel discussion ‘Save Temple Tradition’ in Bengaluru
Prafulla Ketkar said ‘it is the idea of Shiva and Shakthi which is binding the whole Bharat analogous to Shiva from Kailasa in the north and Shakti from Kanyakumari down south. The alleged intellectuals and learned people like us have had the issue of understanding Bharat while it is crystal clear that those people who we have been labelled as ‘uneducated, illiterate’ masses with regard to culture, heritage and Bharatiya values.’
“Swami Kamalananda ji pointed out that governments and courts are interfering in our temple traditions. But the same entities failed to act against those churches whose 99 year lease has already expired or about to expire. All these agreements were done during pre-independence period. Why are we putting up with such biased approach?” — Prabhat YadavGayathri Narendra, member of WEBOLIM, an organisation which facilitates people to experience the treasured values of the Vedas and the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata to inculcate them in their everyday life by way of workshops, classes, and camps, explained how, at WEBOLIM, they have been able to reduce cultural distortions which is visible in schools these days and also as thought process running in the minds of the common man through teaching Samskrita and the Vedas enabling and empowering people to study the texts and scriptures from Maharshis directly instead of relying on the translated versions. Gayathri said the importance of temples were for individual enhancement where it only gave pure thoughts and no distractions and perversions knitting people with the exuberant culture and healthy ritualistic life. Temples served as channels for societal harmony wherein we see that the ratha is being pulled by everyone without discrimination. Reciting from Ramayana, Gayathri said just as Prabhu Rama did not discriminate among his subjects, his citizens too emulated him and lived in harmony. Temples have created a plethora of occupations, creativity, agriculture around them. She cited the example of Srirangam temple which once had 360 varieties of rice for the daily naivedya. National integration was always guaranteed through temples and a devotee from Guruvayur Krishna temple would see and workship the same Krishna at Rajasthan’s Srinathji temple. ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahmasi’ has been practised throughout Bharat, she pointed out. She concluded that the threat to temples are also a threat to individuals, society and national integrity.
“The temples are not places of bhakti and mukti alone but also place of bhukti. The shops around temples generate so much revenue which is unexpected at other religion's place of worship. Temples have always been unifying and organising people in all its karya and does not discriminate any jati. But concocted lies have been spread about our temples” — Swami Kamalananda Swamiji
TR Ramesh, Hon President of Chennai’s Temple Worshipers Society, which works tirelessly to retrieve, restore, rejuvenate the sacred temples, practices, rituals, culture and architecture, lamented on the Supreme Court judgement on the Sabarimala Ayyappa shrine where the top judicial body referred Susan B Anthony and Henry Ward Beecher in their judgement. He questioned if traditions have not harmed anyone, was there a need to destroy the ancient traditions? “Saving our temples like Puri Jagannath on the controversy of Chulha rice is as important as building Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. Identifying the temples which are under threat are to be resolved. Or else it would be too late when things get out of conrol”, he said.
“National integration was always guaranteed through temples and a devotee from Guruvayur Krishna temple would see the same Krishna at Rajasthan’s Srinathji temple. ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahmasi’ has been practiced throughout Bharat” —Gayathri Narendran
He also said, “Atheists and marauding missionaries are not the only ones demolish our temple cultures but also the wrong judgments of the High Court and the Supreme Court have added to the woes and the way of reading everything through Abrahamic glasses will upset the Hindus more”.
The temple established by king, chieftain would be offered to the society through a ritual in consecration where it is told that till sun and moon exist, people would take care of the temple. However, the participation of society in such endeavour is losing and the governments are playing viciously in confiscating acres of lands which belonged to the temple authorities. The analogy that kings ruled the temples and hence the government should rule is so incorrect as the former ruled it in the way he was expected to while the Government these days are into secular and appeasement politics. He said acres of lands in states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra, Telangana have been taken away and no returns out of those could be expected. “Awareness, legal initiatives and agitation are the three things which the society should practise to save Hindu temples from this siege”, TR Ramesh added.
“Bharateeya Traditional Life revolved around temples and played a vast role in the ecosystem of society. Temples were never confined to religious and ritual practices. Art, Dance, Music, conflict management were all part of the temples and a divine touch to any activity was inherent” — Viajayalakshmi Vijayakumar
Vijayalakshmi Vijayakumar, pioneer in thematic programs and is the convenor of ‘Heritage Trust’, a non-profitable trust which focuses on promotion and dissemination of culture and heritage of Bharat said, Hindus do not believe in one God and we are pantheists who elucidate that “Eshwara is everything, Everything is Eshwara” and that there is only one Eshwara. Sadly, we do not fully understand this and we get defensive to explain to someone who speak ill about our gods or even question them. It is a mere joke when people say we look down upon women but it has been nothing but a plot of the those series of invaders who sowed the seed of discrimination. Sati has also been a gift of the invaders but having forgotten the past we feel ashamed of it and not counter it, she said. She echoed Gayathri’s words and said that life revolved around temples and played a vast role in the ecosystem of society. Temples were never confined to religious and ritual practices. Art, Dance, Music, conflict management were all part of the temples and a divine touch to any activity was inherent. Over a period of time dance and music art forms were considered not ritualistic though it is part of the shodhashopachara. Speaking about Sabarimala issue, she said there are lot of occupations confined to women and the external debate on gender equality should not hold good in the case. She urged that the revival and fight to save our temples would be through active participation of everyone.
‘The Panel discussion on the topic 'Save Temple Traditions' organised by Organiser was very informative and insightful. It cleared a lot of doubts and confusions in the minds of the participants and gave clarity on many disinformation and doubts that have been spread by both the mainstream media and social media — Asha Ashok
Kamalananda Bharati Swamiji, Founder of Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samiti, dedicated to rejuvenate (jeernoddhara) Hindu temples and also one who is working in the states of Andhra and Telangana through his work has been successful in keeping the Christian Missionaries and conversions at bay. Addressing the gathering he said, “Swamiji you move forward in your endeavour and we will join hands with you, should be the commitment to save temples and not to just applaud when some work is accomplished”. “There has been a strong belief in our minds that building temples by even sand itself could be so holy that the next three generations who would build them would attain swarga. With the same belief our kings of Chola, Pandyas, Krishnadevaraya and many others have built magnificent temples and handed over to us stating that these temples would exist till Sun and moon would exist. The temples are not places of bhakti and mukti alone but also place of bhukti. The shops around temples generate so much revenue which is unexpected at other religion's place of worship the revered one said. Our temples are not built with just walls and doors but it is so vast and extended which has the garbhagriha, natyagriha, mukhamantapa, parivaramandir, gopura, shikara, Kalyani, dwajastambha etc and there is a significance for each and every architectural wonder he said. Temples have always been unifying and organising people in all its karya and does not discriminate against any jati, but sadly concocted lies have been spread about our temples”, he added.
“The idea of Bharat is not ‘Unity in Diversity’ but is understanding the unique Bharatiya culture that celebrates the diversity. While Bharat has rendered the gift of ‘divinity in all beings’ to the world, it has to now listen to the West on the discourse of gender equality though they are trying to practise humanity for last 300 years only” — Prafulla Ketkar
Speaking about laws made he recollected how the former CM of Andhra Pradesh YSR Reddy had eyed on hundreds of acres of temple land and how the Swamiji along with his team approached the court and stayed the order which YSR Reddy had passed. Pained by the Sabarimala judgement he said that the lamps in the Hindu houses are lit by women. It is women who help in the naivedya and prasada preparation to the Purohit of temples. It is the same women who ask their husbands to take the brahmacharya deeksha and visit Ayyappa temple. Moreover, any village would have the concept of gramadevatha, a Godess who is believed to be protecting the village and she gets the first offering even before the chief deity. With all such practices it should be a laughable thing for someone to speak about gender inequality in Bharat.He concluded by opining that all stake holders who are concerned about Hindu issues including Swamijis, Mathadipathis should come together shunning differences and take up issues of temples, Gau Seva, and anything similar and complete the task in a time bound manner. He recollected how his Rathayatra of 2012 was on Sampurna Grama devalaya sandarshana rathayatra, concentrated on visiting every village and every Hindu house. Swamiji has so far visited 8000 villages walking 10,000 kilometers on foot and intends to visit all six lakh villages in the country and said if such visits are not made it will only ease the job of the missionaries to play their card of conversions.
In the panel discussion, it came out from TR Ramesh that unified voice is need of the hour. Sadly many in northern parts of the country do not understand the Ayyappa tradition and so the country coming together was impossible. A unified voice would have been easy to fight the case. All Hindus have to get united to fight governments on cases related to saving temples is urgently needed Ramesh said.
“If traditions have not harmed anyone, was there a need to destroy the ancient traditions. Saving our temples like Puri Jagannath from controversies like that of Chulha rice, is as important as building a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya” —TR Ramesh
To a question asked by Prafulla Ketkar, Gayathri answered by saying. teaching about Ram and Ramayana has been a source of response to threats to temples. She said. “Swamiji were standing behind the Kshatriyas and guiding them through their tasks who did not fight wars kept the people motivated to tread the path of Dharma. As an instance Swami Samartha Ramadas stood behind Shivaji who fought wars. Swami Samartha Ramadas inspired by Prabhu Ram was working amongst people by building Hanuman temples which worked as a great momentum for people to support the king whose job was to protect his people and also Hindu Dharma. So the participation by everyone would help reclaim the glory of the temples”, she said.
Vijayalakshmi in her concluding remarks said that diversity and equality of women is looked at differently and we as Hindus become defensive or emotionally offensive in answering question that are posed and without strengthening our numbers and convincing ourselves of the greatness of Sanatana Dharma we would be fighting the enemy without a weapon. People could be brought together through programmes, arts and cultural talks but we also need to know why we are doing it.
“This event should have happened long before and we should reach a wider audience as traditions are part of our culture. It is important to save our temple traditions as traditions and culture are part of our identity. These traditions represent the diverse culture that we are and its important that these traditions are safeguards to ensure our cultural continuity. The theft of our traditions has been done very cleverly targeting only our places of worship. The efforts to save temple traditions is beyond elections and politics and it is about the call to every Hindu. Its time Hindus wake and realise their culture, history and heritage” —Viva Kermani
Kamalananda Bharati Swamiji answered a question on how strong the Hindu society still is despite so many assaults over the years and also in recent times. He recollected that the Kar Sevaks who headed to Ayodhya had written their will and had decided that even if they were to lose their lives, it was for the sake of Dharma. Similarly, the recent human chain in Kerala to protect the Sabarimala tradition is a testimony to the fact that Hindus are orientated to Dharma. He urged people to get connected to all Hindus and visit all six lakh villages of the country if not the missionaries would do the same and destroy dharma completely. Amba Bhavani who blessed a sword to Shivaji and his small troop was able to fight and win the enemy which was mightier. “Amba Bhavani’s sword to all of us is ready but it is we who have to make up our mind, get strong and fight the battle”, Swamiji said.
“Article 25 is an individual right as opposed to Art 26 which is a collective right granted to a religious denomination. It forms an intricate intersection of individual and group right in the Constitution. Group right being the right of the religion to operate as an organised faith. Article 26 clause (a) to (d) enumerate four rights which are - to establish and maintain religious institutions, manage its own affairs in matters of religion and rights pertaining to owning, acquiring and administer property” — Srikanth Venkatesh In his concluding remarks, Prafulla Ketkar said Organiser was doing the job of connecting the dots and enabling people to work together for the cause of saving temples. He reminded the attendees that saving the temples is the job of the government and common man assuming its role as zilch is itself against the thought of what Sanatana Dharma has given us. He said though we as Hindus call Ram as Maryada Purshottam new narrative that he is anti SC as he killed Shambhuka, anti ST as he killed Vali, anti-women as he sent Sita to forest, anti Brahmin as he killed Ravana and may be many more to come. So in the battle of such narratives been set we need to understand our enemies clearly and fight them and as Hindu Dharma has always said it is Dharma which prevails but the support system and a unified voice would enable us to win the battle sooner.
Thanks for organising the session on Save Temples Traditions. It was a pleasure to hear the speakers. There is a need for forums or groups where people could volunteer and support the Save Temple traditions initiative on ground too — Mahesh CR Members from Rasadhwani Kalakendra, a cultural organisation, recited Vedic hymns at the start of the event and Smt Roopa Srikanth delivered the invocation song. Prashanth Vaidyaraj, Bureau Chief of Organiser, welcomed and introduced the panelists to the attendees. Smt Anupama Harish compered the event and Sri Radhakrishna Holla delivered the vote of thanks.
(The writer is convenor of VSK Karnataka. With inputs from Bengaluru Bureau)