Madras High Court Converts A Hindu Temple To Buddhist Temple, Stops Pooja
The Madras High Court recently directed the Archaeological Department, Chennai to take control of the Thalaivetti Muniyappan Temple at Salem District in which the sculpture of Buddha was found. The Court also directed that no poojas or other ceremonies should be allowed to be performed for the sculpture of Buddha.
"…there shall be a direction to the 6th respondent (archaeological Department) to take control of the property in which the sculpture has been placed and it shall be maintained by the 6th respondent. The 6th respondent shall also erect a Board inside the property by depicting the sculpture inside the property as Buddha. The general public can also be permitted to visit this place and it shall be ensured that no poojas or other ceremonies are allowed to be performed for the sculpture of Buddha.", the Bench of Justice N. Anand Venkatesh said.
The facts of the case were that the petitioners, some individuals and a 'Buddha Trust', had claimed that the idol inside the Thalaivetti Muniyappan Temple at Kottai Road, Periyeri Village, Salem District was of Buddha and it was submitted that the statute was converted into one of Hindu deity and being worshipped by the Hindus.
The temple was under the administration of the state government as the state was treating it as a Hindu temple. The State government contented that "this place has been treated as a Temple of Thalaivetti Muniappan for a considerable period and the people in the locality also used to come to this place for worship".
Therefore the Court had directed the Principal Secretary and Commissioner, Archaeological Department, to inspect and file a detailed report, as to the claim of the petitioner.
In the report, it was submitted that the Committee collectively expressed their opinion that the sculpture depicted several mahalakshanas (great traits) of the Buddha.
In view of this, the Court opined that the control of the sculpture must go into the hands of some other authority other than HR & CE Department.
"After having received such a report, it will not be appropriate to permit the HR & CE Department to continue to treat this sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan. The mistaken identity cannot be allowed to continue after coming to a conclusion that the sculpture is that of Buddha.", the Court opined.
Advocate S. Sathia Chandran appeared for petitioners and Additional Government Pleader S. Yashwanth, appeared for State of Tamil Nadu. The Archeological Department was represented by Government Advocate T.K.Saravanan.
The Court considering the facts and circumstances of the case directed the archaeological department to take control of the property in which the sculpture was placed. The Court also directed them to erect a Board inside the property by depicting the sculpture inside the property as Buddha.
Interestingly, the issue of whether the directions passed by the Court will amount to changing the nature of the place of worship in violation of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 has not arisen in the case.
Cause Title- P.Ranganathan and Anr. V. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors.