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The Rediff Interview/P K S Raja, the Zamorin of Calicut
'In Guruvayur the focus should be Sri Krishna'
June 12, 2007
P K S Raja, the current Samoothiripad (Zamorin) of Kozhikode, lives in rented accommodation in Chalappuram, in Kozhikode city, Kerala [Images]; the only visible symbol of his status is the name plate 'Zamorin Raja of Calicut' at the entrance to his home.
The Raja, who turned 94 in April, succeeded to the throne in August 2003, when incumbent P K Etannunni Raja passed away, aged 93.
The Zamorin traditionally held title to the Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayur, of which the ruling family was patron. Post-Independence, this title was written over to the Dewaswom Board; since then, the Zamorins have only retained a permanent seat on the temple managing committee.
The events surrounding the purification ceremony carried out at the temple following the visit of Union Minister Vayalar Ravi and family are, he tells rediff.com's Prem Panicker, unfortunate; unless all stakeholders act with discretion and a certain sense of urgency, the issue could cause deep fissures in the community, and heartburn for the devotees.
As one of only two permanent members on the temple managing committee, sir, your voice carries weight. What is your official reaction to the Vayalar Ravi controversy?
It is true that as the current Samoothiripad, I have a permanent seat on the managing committee -- but the committee's function is strictly democratic; it is not true to say my voice carries more weight than any other member. Ultimately, all decisions are taken by consensus, as is proper in a democracy.
My personal opinion is that the whole affair is unfortunate; it could have been managed much better. Everyone appears to have acted in haste, and the issue has led to unnecessary confrontation and controversy, which is sad.
Are you in agreement with performing the purification ceremony?
I understand that the minister's son, Ravikrishna, has presented the managing committee with a formal, written complaint. The chief priest has also submitted his version of the events. I have been informed that there is a managing committee meeting scheduled for the 12th (June 12) in Guruvayur, which I will be attending.
It is only then that I will be able to see what Ravikrishna has said and what the priest has said; it is not fair for me to make a comment on the incident before I am familiar with it.
As of now, what I know is what everyone else knows. A purification ceremony was carried out; the chief priest has said it was necessary because Ravikrishna is the son of a Christian woman; Minister Ravi and others have said he is a Hindu. What we have right now is a situation where there are many questions, and very few definite answers.
What questions have this incident triggered in your mind?
Clearly, there is the question of who is a Hindu, and what is the certification process that declares you a Hindu. It also raises the question of rites and rituals governing temples, and whether they need to be reviewed, not just now but periodically, in keeping with changing times.
What kind of changes would you advocate?
It is not for me to advocate change. While committees run temples, the worship of the Lord is in the hands of the priests; they are the final authority when it comes to matters of religion. Today, everyone is talking of change, and getting increasingly heated, but no one is spelling out what changes are required.
That should be the first step -� the priests in charge of our major temples should get together, seriously examine whether the religion and its rites and rituals need change in keeping with the current time.
Once the priests arrive at a consensus on the nature of such change, it should then be up to the temple administrators to educate the public on the proposed changes, if any, and ensure that religious sentiments are not hurt.
Do you see this happening on, or soon after, the June 12 managing committee meeting?
I cannot say what will happen at the meeting. For my part, I will put forward just one thought at the meeting -� that it is urgent, imperative, to resolve this crisis at the very earliest. It should not be allowed to prolong; the controversy, which will only escalate as more time goes by and more people make statements, can create heartburn in the community.
In Guruvayur, the focus should be Sri Krishna, the presiding deity; controversies such as this should not be allowed to distract from the real reason people come there. Hence my feeling that all of us need to work urgently towards finding the just, the best, solution to this issue; with that as a first step, we must work towards examining our religious practices and seeing what, if any, changes are required.
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