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Temples have played a huge role in development of civilisation and their traditional functioning should be paramount: Madras HC

According to Justice R Mahadevan, Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to freely profess, practise, and propagate their religion.

The Madras High Court in Madurai has stated that temples should be preserved with the primary focus being on how they have traditionally operated. The court said that they have played a significant part in the development of society and civilisation.

Authoring the judgment, Justice R Mahadevan on behalf of Justice Sathya Narayana Prasad and himself stated that the existence of temples is intertwined with the coexistence of various activities performed inside them. The judgment noted that activities such as hymn recitals, dance, drama, and debates take place inside temples and that the decline of one activity will have an impact on the other and ultimately the temples.

According to Justice R Mahadevan, Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to freely profess, practise, and propagate their religion. However, this right to free expression and exercise may be constrained inside temple grounds.

He emphasised that while the temple officials are in charge of ensuring the safety and security of the pilgrims in addition to keeping the decorum and holiness of the temple, the Agamas set the guidelines for the procedures to be observed.

The court, however, took note of the Joint Commissioner’s argument that the Arulmighu Subramania Swami Temple is undergoing significant development work. They noted that, in order to prevent any inconvenience to the devotees, the Joint Commissioner had refused to allow anyone to stay inside the temple during this year’s Kanda Shasti festival at Tiruchendur, Tuticorin District. Instead, temporary structures with minimal amenities had been set up outside the temple.

The court opined that the decision of the Joint Commissioner taken this year was justified as it had been done in order to avoid any inconvenience to the devotees.

It is customary for worshippers to fast, sing “kanda shasti kavasam”, and engage in religious rituals in the temple without leaving during the six-day Kanda Shasti festival, which takes place on the sixth day of the Tamil month of Aippasi in October and November. During this time, the devotees are normally permitted to stay in the outer ‘praharam’ of the temple. This has been the practice in the temple for quite a long time.

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