Traditional temple

Temple foot-washing ritual rages on

A ritual of washing the feet of Brahmins at the Sree Poornathrayeesa temple in Thripunithura sparked a row, drawing rebuke from minister Devaswom K. Radhakrishnan, who called it unworthy of a civilized society.

The ritual named “Kaalkazhichoottu” involved washing the feet of Brahmins either by the thanthri (chief priest) or another priest upon their arrival, feeding them and then offering them a shawl and a “dakshina” upon their departure.

After the ritual caused a stir, Mr. Radhakrishnan phoned the chairman of the Cochin Devaswom board, V. Nandakumar, and asked for a report. “Steps will be taken to eradicate these rituals which bring discredit to Kerala known for its heritage of rebirth. Action will also be taken against similar medieval rituals unacceptable to any civilized society prevalent in temples under other Devaswom guidance as well,” Mr. Radhakrishnan said in his social media post.

Mr Nandakumar said discussions would take place with the thanthri and other relevant authorities before taking a decision on the removal of the ritual. He said the ritual has been on the “price list” of temple offerings under the direction of the Cochin Devaswom Board for several years.

“It is performed either by the thanthri or the priest and devotees are not allowed to perform it. It has been in vogue for years and was nothing more than in line with our tradition of welcoming guests just like a groom is received with a similar foot-washing ritual,” he said.

Mr Nandakumar said the ritual became controversial after another temple under the council of Kodungalloor, in its over-enthusiasm, tried to popularize the ritual by opening it to devotees without consulting the council.

He said the ritual was performed sparingly as a solution after a devapreshnam whether in houses or temples raised the issue of the “Brahmanic curse”.