Dress code in temples absurd

It is unfortunate that the controversy over the dress code at the Sree Padmanabha temple in Kerala refuses to go away, and the latest position is the affirmation of a retrograde practice. The Kerala High Court has rejected an order of the executive officer of the temple, issued last month, which allowed women wearing churidars to enter the temple. The officer had taken the decision after the court had told him to take an appropriate decision on the dress code after consultations. The order was in force for two days. But the liberalisation of the dress code triggered protests from some conservative elements and petitions in the court. The court has now ruled that women should wear the customary women’s dress of a saree, a mundu or a skirt inside the temple. The officer’s decision had been supported by the government. But the temple management committee and some other orthodox elements were opposed to it.

The conventional restrictions on dress do not make sense in these times in temples or in other places. Certain rules about dress came into being in some temples on the basis of the attire worn by men and women decades or centuries ago in the places where they are located. There cannot be any sanctity attached to them and they are not part of any religious code or practice. When the dress habits of people change, temples should also accommodate them and revise their norms accordingly. Strictly speaking, even skirts and blouses are not Kerala’s traditional dress but they are allowed inside the temple. The objection to churidars is therefore unreasonable and unjustifiable. Women can go inside the temple wearing a dhoti over the churidar. This is absurd because the churidar, which is taboo, does not go away when a dhoti is worn over it. Does only the appearance matter?

Many temples have such rigid customs and practices relating to dress, entry of women or some other sections, priesthood etc. They need to be revised or dropped. Clean and decent dress of any style should pass muster in any temple. Many people wrongly think that sticking to old customs, however odd and against the spirit of the times they are, is to be authentically and genuinely religious. But the strength of a tradition lies in its openness and adaptability. It should be noted that another major temple in Kerala, the Guruvayoor temple, has allowed churidars to be worn and the Supreme Court has supported the decision. Hinduism is wide and inclusive enough to tolerate all varieties of dresses, styles and forms of worship.


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