High Court order prescribed what devotees have to wear.
This new year’s day a sartorial idea laid siege to the temples of Tamil Nadu that have routinely been stormed on the count of several social and reformist ideologies.
The Madras High court bench in Chennai had on December 1 directed the state government and Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to implement dress code for devotees, for entry into temples kicking in on January 1, a routine visit gained much more significance as men, women and children were told what they had to wear.
The Madurai bench of Madras High Court has ordered that police should ensure a dress code for people entering temples —dhoti and shirt or pyjama “with upper cloth” for men and saree or half-saree or churidar “with upper cloth” for women. Children can wear “any fully covered dress”.
The court also directed the state government to take a decision on this issue and directed the authorities to implement the court-mandated dress code from January 2016. It also directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to communicate to all temples to strictly adhere to the dress code.
Devotees entering temples in Tamil Nadu will have to follow a new dress code from January 1 as several important shrines have put up notice boards highlighting this.
According to a notice board outside the Palani temple, male devotees have been advised to wear dhoti, shirt, pyjama or pant and shirt while women and girls should wear saris or churidhar or 'pavadai' with half-sari.
Devotees wearing lungi, bermudas, jeans and tight-leggings would not be allowed, it said.
Other major shrines which have put up notice boards about the dress code included the Rameswaram and Meenakshi temples, officials said.
The order, issued by Justice S Vaidyanathan on November 26, came during the hearing of a writ petition seeking the court’s permission to hold a “Gramiya Adal Padal Vizha” (musical dance programme) at a temple in Akkiyampatti village in Trichy district. The court said the objective of the order is to restrict devotees from wearing improper clothing.
The code emerged as a result of Judge S. Vaidyanathan’s “concern over improper clothes” worn by many people during temple visits.
Moreover he had said "we should dress for public worship in a way that is generally considered appropriate."
"The department should consider implementing the dress code as follows: for men dhoti or pyjamas with upper cloth or formal pants and shirts and for women saree or half saree with blouse, churidhars with upper cloth, for children any fully covered dress," the judge had said, adding, it should be followed in temples from January 1, 2016.
He directed that it be implemented in all temples coming under the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department until the State government takes a policy decision on the issue in order “to enhance the spiritual ambience.”
This Friday, regarded as auspicious by Hindus, rendered more significant by the birth of a new year, huge crowds thronged the temples.
On the day of implementation though, few temples actually turned away devotees.
At the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple, and at the Kapaleeswarar and Parthasarathy temples in Chennai, devotees were told to adhere to the norms on their next visit. In Tiruchi’s Rockfort Sri Thayumanaswamy Temple, temple authorities gave dhotis and shawls (they had been offered to the temple) to those who had come in jeans or shorts, a strict no-no as per the new code. In southern Tamil Nadu however, temple authorities said there was good compliance with the dress code, with only a few people coming in jeans.
“According to Christianity, a general lesson from the New Testament is that we should dress for public worship in a way that is generally considered appropriate. Standards of dress are different from church to church and change over time, but we should avoid any style of dress that is offensive or sends a message opposing the church community’s values,” the judgment said.
The judge observed that Islam also insists on a dress code: “Sleeves should reach to each wrist and the hair should be covered by a headscarf. Pants or skirts that are too revealing, clingy, or tight should not be worn and the dress permissible to men for worship is that they should wear long pants and plain shirts without messages or slogans when visiting mosques.”
It also referred to the recently imposed dress code banning short skirts and shorts in Somnath temple and a similar rule in Tirupati temple.
Among the devotees though there were mixed reactions – ranging between bemusement and irritation, stopping just short of outrage, and a good many of them saying if they had known earlier, they would have conformed to the code.