A few days after the Koodalmanikyam temple in Thrissur refused permission to participate to two dancers because they were not Hindu, three Hindu dancers withdrew from their dance concert at the temple in protest, saying that the art transcends all barriers.
Last Monday, classical dancers VP Mansiya and Soumya Sukumaran said they had been barred from a scheduled dance program at the temple because they were not from the Hindu community. The temple authorities had asked them both to produce certificates stating that they had converted to Hinduism in order to perform at the temple, which they both later refused to do.
Dancers Devika Sajeevan, Anju Aravind and Karthik Manikandan, all classical dance artists, said they could not accept the ban on other dancers because of their religious identity and they informed the temple authorities of their decision to withdraw from the program.
“As I feel the need to stand by my fellow artists who have faced unfortunate incidents, I have chosen to refrain from doing this performance at the Koodalmanikyam Dance Festival scheduled for April 24,” said Devika in her message which also carried a notice of the temple festival.
“I have decided not to perform at the Koodalmanikyam festival scheduled for April 21. It is sad even to accompany the religion of the artists and other details are sought. I can’t give an affidavit saying I’m a Hindu just to play. Art forms have no religion or caste and transcend all barriers. Even at this age, some people cling to these strange customs. Therefore, I am boycotting this opportunity,” Anju Aravind said in her Facebook post. Karthik Manikandan also said he withdrew from the concert due to mistreatment of fellow artists. Her dance program is scheduled for April 17. “In solidarity with the artists left behind, I am also stepping down,” he said in his post.
The temple’s decision to ban two dancers sparked a controversy and later the government advised the temple council to talk to everyone involved and make a decision. Reacting to the decision of the three Hindu dancers, Mansiya said she was truly humbled. “For artists, art is their faith and their breath,” she said, thanking everyone for their support.
A Bharatnatyam dancer, she was the first to express her concern after temple authorities canceled her program. Hailing from a Muslim family in Malappuram district, she had faced the wrath of the Orthodox section of the community for practicing classical dance. His family was also threatened by fundamentalist forces and later they were expelled from the mahal (mosque) committee and they led an ostracized life but continued their passion for art. The second dancer – Soumya Sukumaran was refused permission because she was a Christian. She later said that the temple authorities had pre-screened her name under the impression that she was a Hindu, under her name.
After the row broke out, youth groups, cultural leaders and right-wing groups like Hindu Aikya Vedia also criticized the decision. Later, the temple council approached the tantri (chief priest) of the temple, who is the final word in temple customs and practices, with a request to change the age-old custom.
“We agree that these customs will have to be changed. We have already approached tantri and other priests in this regard. This is a sensitive issue and a decision can only be made with the consent of all parties involved,” said temple council chairman U Pradeep Menon. He said the ban applied to everyone, not just artists, and when doing temple work, they specifically mentioned in the quote that only workers belonging to the Hindu community would be allowed inside the temples. temple premises.
Many leaders criticized the decision of the temple, considered the only shrine in the country dedicated to Lord Bharath, the younger brother of Lord Ram. “Where is Vasudaiva Kutumbakam?” I believe that such a decision serves our society badly and harms the perception of our religion in the eyes of others,” said writer and senior congressional official Shashi Tharoor. “Hinduism is an all-encompassing religion. We cannot close the doors to non-Hindus like this,” said BJP Deputy Chairman B Gopalakrishnan. Aikya Vedi’s Hindu secretary, Ramesh Koottala, sent a letter to the chairman of the temple council to revoke the decision and ensure the participation of all performers.
Located at Irinjalakuda, about 24 km from Thrissur, the ancient Koodalmanikyam shrine is one of the largest in the state known for its towering walls, nalamabalam and architecture and is believed to have been built in 854/55 AD. Although the temple is dedicated to Bharata, the main idol is Lord Vishnu in the form of Sangameswara (Lord of Confluence). The temple is also known for its elaborate rituals and strict customs.