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Kerala priest loses his job 'cos he went to London

D Jose in Trivandrum

Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri, apart from being a Malayalam poet and Vedic scholar, is the melshanthi (chief priest) at the Sri Vallabha temple, Tiruvalla, in Kerala.

Was, actually.

Because, you see, the other day, he caught the boot from the Travancore Devaswom Board.

Namboodiri's great crime, if put simply, is this: He dared to cross the seas (against the Hindu custom), he dared to go to London.

Fact is, the melshanthi, reputed for his knowledge of the four Vedas, was invited to address the Millennium Conference On Integration On Science and Consciousness, in Britain.

So Namboodiri went, addressed the conference, and came back -- to find the temple doors closed for him

Temple authorities say Namboodiri needs a thorough cleansing -- they have asked him to do penance -- and punaravrodha (reinstallation) before he can be allowed in again.

Namboodiri, for his part, maintain he is clean enough, and refuses to accept the authorities's terms. He said he had obtained prior permission for taking part in the Vedic discourse. Also, he had undertaken similar trips after his appointment as melshanthi and nobody had objected before.

"The organisers (of the London conference, where Namboodiri was the sole Indian representative) had good appreciation of our culture and traditions, but our people have no such regards," he said.

The devaswom board, it would appear, is prepared to take a 'lenient' view of the London affair, but a group of devotees and members of the temple advisory committee insist that that shall not be so.

"None," they hold, "who has gone against the age-old Hindu custom shall enter the temple without doing penance."

Devaswom president I G K Menon, when Rediff On The NeT contacted him, said he had initiated an 'inquiry into the matter.'

Interestingly, fellow poets and writers have not joined the issue as this is a 'religious matter.' "It is between the temple and the priest," said a poet, "and no writer or poet has any business getting involved."

A group of devotees, meanwhile, is maintaining strict vigil around the temple to see that the 'unclean' priest does not enter, and the Devaswom authorities have requested Namboodiri to co-operate with them 'in maintaining peace.'

Thus, now, stands the stalemate between orthodox religion and contemporary faith.


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