Chennai: The Cuddalore police have booked 20 priests of the famous Chidambaram Nataraja temple under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities)Act.
The action was taken after the priests allegedly stopped Lakshmi (36), a woman from the SC community of Old Bhuvanagiri Road from taking ‘darshan’ at Chitrambalai Medai where the Nataraja idol is placed for darshan.
While the priests were booked under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, no arrests were made.
Lakshmi alleged that the priests verbally abused her and used casteist slur. Police said that further investigation regarding the complaint is on.
Chitrambalai Medai at Nataraja temple attracts lakhs of devotees every year from all parts of India and abroad to have a ‘darshan’ of the idol of Nataraja. However, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions, a section of the priests decided that devotees should not be allowed for ‘darshan’.
This was opposed by another group of priests leading to enmity between the two groups of priests. Subsequently, three priests were booked under attempted murder following an argument with two other priests.
A priest Shakthi Ganesan and his family, including his son and another priest Darshan and a woman devotee, tried to enter the Chitrambalai Medai which was opposed by the three priests.
Darshan and Shakthi Ganeshan while speaking to reporters said, “This temple was built by the Chola kings and the priests don’t have the right to stop anyone from praying at Chitrambalai Medai. Despite the complaint, we filed against the three priests but no action has been taken against them by the police.”
Ayyappan and Vegatesan, the two priests who were part of the group of priests who allegedly prevented other priests from reaching Chitramabalai Medai, while speaking to IANS said, There is no untouchability in this temple and a section of priests are creating a bad name for the temple. Even Muslims and Christians visit this temple. Some restrictions were placed due to the safety concern and Covid-19 pandemic.
“The woman has filed a false complaint that she was not allowed entry. This was not because of her caste but due to the majority vote among the priests, a decision was taken not to allow anyone to the Chitrambalai Medai. No one has the right to interfere in this.”