HC stays Art of Living event at iconic TN temple complex
The Madras High Court on Friday stayed the holding of a two-day event of Art of Living (AoL), hours before it was scheduled to commence at the iconic Brihadeeswarar temple, a UNESCO-designated heritage monument in Thanjavur.
A division bench of justices KK Sasidharan and PD Audikesavulu granted the stay after a petition filed earlier in the morning, by one N Venkat of Kumbakonam, a chartered accountant interested in protecting sanctity of temples. The court also ordered immediate removal of the structures put up at the temple complex by AoL. It directed the Thanjavur district collector and superintendent of police, to oversee the order is implemented and file a report on Monday.
The two-day meditation programme titled “Unveiling Infinity” was scheduled to begin around 2 pm on December 7. Large and spacious tents with all paraphernalia were put up along the main temple wall where AOL founder Sri Sri Ravishankar was slated to address participants. Holding the event within the premises the temple triggered a controversy with heritage enthusiasts and political parties demanding its ban.
Joining the chorus, Dalit leader and Viduthalai Chiruthalaigal Katchi president Thol Thirumavalavan said, “Heritage and antiquity of the temple should be protected. The state government should intervene and stop the event at the temple complex. It is a commercial event and it is learnt that each participant has to pay ~3,000. Further, allowing an organisation identifying itself with a particular faith would create trouble,” he said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the protest demonstration near the temple complex announced by various political parties including the Left parties and the rationalist Dravidar Kazhagam and pro-Tamil groups including Tamil Desiya Periyakkam, has been called off in the wake of the HC issuing a stay.
The issue came to light when a Madurai-based independent journalist, AR Meyyammai, during a visit to the temple, witnessed hectic preparations of the event and posted the pictures of the same on social media.
Officials in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which manages the temple, said permission was granted for the event with strict conditions, at the recommendation of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department of the state government.
Following the court order, the organisers have shifted the venue to a private place. “We have obtained permission for the programme to sing bhajans. I wonder why those opposing it had moved the high court at the eleventh hour. However, this will not deter us from holding the event. Now, we have shifted the venue to a private place,” Pradeep Kumar, a coordinator of the programme told the media in Thanjavur.
Earlier, when the matter was mentioned the bench agreed to hear it as an urgent matter and directed the petitioner to file a proper petition. During the hearing, the judges asked why Art of Living could not conduct the programme in a place other than a temple with huge historical and archaeological significance. The judges also wondered how permission for the event could have been granted in the first place.