The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) –that manages as many as 1,200 temples in southern India– has issued a new circular warning its officials of strict action if they did not prevent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from conducting the functioning of its shakhas — or branches — on its temple premises. Through this second circular, the Travancore Devaswom Board has banned mass drills and other activities organised by the RSS on temple premises. The board said temples were for the believers and there should not be any inconvenience to devotees. The TDB, also stated that photos of political leaders were being displayed in some temples and such actions “destroyed the purity of temples”.
Talking about the circular, TDB president Ananthagopan said, “RSS shakhas were functioning in many temples, they were performing drills and such activities were taking place. That’s the reason why such a circular was issued. Temples are for the believers, there should not be any inconvenience for the devotees to worship. That’s the stand of Dewaswom board. To bring to the notice of officials, the circular has been reissued.”
The circular was issued following complaints from devotees that its earlier order to the same effect was not implemented. In the second order issued on May 18, the TDB directed its officials to ban RSS activities on temple premises. Speaking to the media including India Today, the TDB president K Ananthagopan confirmed the issuing of the fresh order and added that the governing body wanted to address the believers’ complaints peacefully.
“The order was initially issued in 2021. A few temples have been facing issues due to the functioning of the RSS shakhas,” Ananthagopan told the media. “Temples are a pure and divine space and they should remain that way,” he further said.
“When you conduct such activities on temple premises, people with opposing views and beliefs would naturally object to it. There have been complaints against RSS activities at temples. We are objecting only to its activities in temple premises,” he added.
He said there had been no direct communication between the board and the RSS regarding the matter. “This is the directive to the officials. They will resolve the issue amicably. We are reminding the officials yet again since many of them did not comply with the earlier directive,” he said.
No to RSS drills
A copy of the order accessed by South First stated that in March 2021, the TDB had first asked its officials to prohibit the RSS from holding drills at temples under the board. The board directed its officials to ensure that armed or unarmed drills did not take place on temple premises.
It also advised the officials against providing temple resources to third-party groups. “But it has come to the notice of the board that the said order is not being properly followed. Strict disciplinary action will be taken against the officers who do not comply with the order,” the board stated in the fresh directive.