According to the plaintiffs, the nuns’ presence offended Hindu feelings. The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam does not allow non-Hindus inside the area dedicated to worship. “We cannot go against their belief,” clergyman says.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Leading members of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other nationalist groups have filed a complaint against the administration of a Hindu temple in Tamil Nadu for allowing a group of Catholic nuns to visit the site, this according to The Hindu, one of India’s foremost daily newspapers.
According to the plaintiffs, the presence of nuns in their religious attire in a Hindu place of worship hurt the religious feelings of Hindu believers and was meant to mock the temple’s sanctity.
The complaint was filed by Sethu Aravind, a member of the BJP state executive committee, and representatives of militant Hindu fundamentalist movements: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Hindu Alaya Meetpu Iyakkam and Anaithu Hindu Iyakkam.
The incident occurred on 8 May at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, an island in the city of Tiruchirappalli. The nuns were part of a group of tourists from Kerala.
The visit sparked the fury of the radicals when their social media began spreading the rumour that the nuns had taken rosaries out of their pockets and started to pray inside the Hindu temple.
Pictures of the nuns were posted on online messaging platforms showing them walking near the Thousand Pillar Mandapam, a theatre like structure made from granite.
Following the publication of the images, some devotees criticised the temple administration and filed a complaint with the Srirangam police.
Temple officials confirmed that the nuns wore their religious attire during the tour, but also made it clear that they did not pray inside the temple.
Furthermore, when they were asked to leave the Hindu holy place because of their dress, the nuns did not resist and left without delay.
Temple officials explained that non-Hindus are not allowed in the Sannidhis, the area dedicated to the worship of deities.
“The temple of Srirangam in Tiruchirappalli is one of the temples which does not permit Christians to enter,” said Fr Sebastian Michael, adviser to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
“Even today, in a globalised world, it is their right not to permit people from other religions. We cannot go against their belief,” he added.
“All the same, it [the reaction] is too hard on the nuns, who did not know the rules,” he explained. “What is surprising is Hindu political parties interfering in religious affairs.”
"Despite this, we continue to believe in dialogue. There is a lot of good will and cooperation between religions. Many Hindu religious leaders invite us to their religious meetings and we do the same,” he noted.
According to Fr Michael, who is also a professor of cultural anthropology and a member of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue of the Archdiocese of Mumbai, "there is so much cooperation between Hindus and Christians. Problems arise when political parties or groups that are not so open minded begin to spoil the situation. Small incidents like this one are blown out proportion."