At a time when most temples are inaccessible to people with disabilities, an ancient temple in Kozhikode, Kerala has set an example by becoming disabled friendly.
Wheelchair users can now enter the famous Tali Maha Siva temple in Kozhikode. Only a few temples in the state, such as the famous Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple, now have the facilities to allow wheelchairs to enter inside.
Prajith Jayapal, a native of Kozhikode who became a quadriplegic following an accident, was the first to enter the Tali temple in a wheelchair on Sunday. He said that after surviving the accident, he visited the temple several times but could only offer prayers from outside.
Jayapal said Tali Temple should inspire all temples to become disabled friendly.
Sakshama, an organization working for the welfare of people with disabilities, has taken the initiative to set up permanent facilities for wheelchair accessibility in the temple. Sakshama is now urging the state government and Devaswom councils to make all major temples in the state accessible to people with disabilities.
Sakshama’s incumbent chairman, R Ramachandran, said that despite repeated directives from government agencies and various forums to make all public places handicap-friendly, most temples are still inaccessible. Making temples, especially older ones, suitable for people with disabilities would require more effort due to factors related to temple architecture.
Ramachandran said it is often society that makes the disabled disabled. If all buildings and premises had facilities that allowed the free movement of people with disabilities, no one would have become disabled. Apart from the ramps for the buildings, adequate parking lots near the buildings were also needed, Ramachandran said.
K Anandagopan, chairman of the board of Travancore Devaswom, which operates about 1,250 temples, said such a problem of temples remaining inaccessible to people with disabilities had not been noticed so far. The matter would be looked into.