Coconut ban in Meenakshi Temple – Yet another Dravidian assault on Hinduism
by B R Haran on 10 Dec 2009 12 Comments

The government’s proposal

The Tamil Nadu government is contemplating a ban on coconuts inside the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple! The HR & CE Department has sought public opinion before 15 December 2009. Police attribute ‘security reasons’ for this decision; they claim the temple has always been on the terror radar and that central intelligence agencies have frequently received threats of a Jihadi attack.


Though the police have increased security on the advice of the central intelligence agencies, they are wary of Jihadis using coconuts as bomb planting instruments. They say it is very difficult for them to screen puja materials brought in from outside by thousands of devotees every day, and that is why they recommended a ban on coconuts inside the temple. The temple’s Executive Officer Rajanayagam, in a show of rare “intelligence”, suggested that devotees could use flowers instead of coconuts! The archagas of the temple are dead against this outrageous idea.

( - Tamil daily ‘Dinamalar’ 7 Dec 2009)


Temple – centre of community development and livelihood


Temples are a symbol of Bharat’s centuries-old divine heritage. A temple is a centre of activity, not only for the devotees and the archagas, but also a great livelihood for the traders of flowers, coconuts, fruits, herbs and leaves, bamboo sticks, brass and sand lamps, puja materials, etc. Bamboo sticks were used to make plates and baskets for carrying materials for worship and it is sad that plastic bags have replaced them and bamboo merchants around temples are now extinct. Plastics are posing a grave threat to the environment and to the lives of elephants and cows reared by the temple, and other cattle and dogs which roam near the temple depending on the food and eatables given by devotees and vendors. In one stroke, a poor community is made extinct and a danger to environment and animal lives is welcomed.


Puranic significance of coconut


There is an interesting Puranic history behind the sanctity of the coconut. While Bhagwan Shiva was on his mission of “Tripura Samhaaram”, the pivotal piece (‘Achaani’ in Tamil) of his chariot broke at a place in Tamil Nadu - “Achirupaakkam” (Achchu – pivotal piece; Itra – broke; paakkam – town and hence Achirupaakkam). Bhagwan Ganesh arrived and reminded Shiva that He was the one who told the world to start any ritual or function or even any act only after invoking the blessings of Ganesha, and since Shiva himself had failed to do so, his chariot was stranded. Shiva asked for a prayaschita; Ganesha said, “Since you failed to start with Ganesh Puja out of ‘Ahankaar’ (‘Karvam’ in Tamil, meaning head-weight), you have to sacrifice your head”. Later Parvati (Parasakti) came to the rescue of Shiva and asked Ganesha to suggest a remedy as world will be ruined if Shiva’s head is removed from his body. Ganesha creates a coconut with three eyes and a tuft (‘Kudumi’ in Tamil) and breaks it. Hence the Tamil practice of addressing Shiva as “Kudumi Thevar”.  


Devotees of Swami Aiyappan going to Sabarimala on pilgrimage carry ghee inside a coconut and break it at the temple in order to use the ghee for Abishekam. Normally butter and ghee are used mostly in Vishnu temples, as the name “Navaneethan” indicates, and carrying ghee inside a coconut by Ayyappa devotees is to signify the birth of Swami Aiyappan out of the unison of Shiva and Vishnu. Coconut is an integral part of Hindu religion, culture and tradition; there is no worship, custom or ritual sans coconut. Any coconut merchant would vouch for the fact that temples are at the top of his clientele list, rarely next only to Hotels. The state government’s proposal seems to be yet another anti-Hindu act with an intention of giving a huge blow to religious tradition and culture. It will certainly hit the livelihood of coconut vendors, merchants and farmers.


Failure of the law enforcing department 


The police citing ‘security’ for the proposed ban on coconuts is outrageous and plain stupid. The Meenakshi Amman Temple has been under threat ever since Muslim fundamentalists started observing the anniversary of the so-called Babri demolition (which they actually ignored this year, with two senior clerics, Shia and Sunni respectively, organizing family wedding festivities on that date, and arguing against observing the Babri anniversary). Yet in Tamil Nadu, a big drama is unfolded every year! A bomb blast occurred in the temple on May 18, 1996 within a year of the formation of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK). But TN Police failed to check the growth of Jihadi organizations, which resulted in the serial blasts in Coimbatore in February 1998.


Hostile environment – Government’s own creation


It is pertinent to understand the environment around the famous temple. Successive Dravidian governments have leased out the lands, shops and buildings around the temple for paltry sums. Most lessees are Muslims and the hundreds of shops (including meat shops) surrounding the temple are owned by Muslims; many are Kashmiri Muslims. Most shops mislead the public by having ‘Hindu’ names! There is a rule by the corporation that no structure should be built with a height of more than nine meters in a radius of one kilometer from the temple. But many buildings have come up, including a few churches and mosques. This rule holds good for other temples also, as it finds a place in HR & CE’s Rule Book itself. Regarding Meenakshi temple, it is difficult to have darshan of the temple towers even within half a kilometer! Instead of correcting this, the police talk of a ban on coconuts!


Coming to security, the police have absolutely no idea about the activities of the Kashmiri Muslim shops and their visitors from outside the State. Only after the startling exposure of a Kashmiri youth by Madurai VHP leader Cinmaya Somasundaram, police initiated some action. Recently, a youth, Shakil Ahamed, took refuge in a predominantly Brahmin locality called SS Colony, by changing his name to ‘Saikumar’; he was given shelter by a brother-sister duo residing next to the VHP office.


The lady was an employee of a Kashmiri shop just outside the temple. It is said she allowed the youth to stay as a guest in her house on her employer’s instruction. Suspecting shady activities, the VHP leader complained to the police, who immediately arrested the trio after an enquiry. They were charged for cheating the public with fake Dollar currency. The police was also investigating the likelihood of Shakil Ahamed’s connections with terrorist organizations (Ref: Tamil bi-weekly “Junior Vikatan” – December 2008).


Even after this incident, the police do not seem to have any track on the hundreds of Muslim shops outside the temple. They should periodically check these shops. As devotees are cooperating with police during security checks, shopkeepers and vendors must also cooperate with the police whenever they check their premises. There is no point in harping on so-called minority rights; what is at stake is a centuries-old magnificent temple and the lives of thousands of devotees.


Yet this kind of hostile environment has been created in many other famous temples by successive governments leasing out shops to non-Hindus. One can come across shops owned by Muslims around the famous Kapalishwarar Temple, Chennai, and many other temples across the state. There has been a long pending demand by Hindus that the revenue from temples must go only for Temples and Hindu related causes and that poor Hindus must be given priority in setting up shops around temples. But successive governments have not bothered to listen to this genuine demand. Can any Hindu set up a shop on a wakf property or mosque land or church land? Just because the government has control over temple lands, it doesn’t mean that it can lease out them to non-Hindus. 


Alien forces behind every anti-Hindu move


Most vendors selling flowers and puja items near the temples are Christian converts with Hindu religious marks on their face! They slowly indulge in propagating Christianity to gullible devotees. The missionaries and Churches have got so much of freedom in Tamil Nadu that they stand just in front of temples and boldly distribute brochures and pamphlets to devotees! All anti-Hindu acts by successive Dravidian governments point to alien forces behind them. Apart from having an unholy nexus with the Dravidian parties, they also instigate so-called Dalit leaders like Thirumavalavan to agitate against Hindus! Even on 6 December, Thirumavalavan’s party (VCK – Viduthalai Siruththaikal katchi) organized several meetings across the state condemning Hindus for the demolition of the Babri structure and calling for a union of Dalits and minorities to fight against so-called Hindutva forces. 


Hence the role of alien forces behind the proposal to ban coconuts cannot be ruled out. If this is allowed, tomorrow it will be extended to other temples, and next time, the government will ban lamps and candles may replace them! This is very serious issue and Hindus must reject this proposal outright.


Hindu response


When this writer invited opinions from some highly placed Hindus, they said, “It is more than 70 years since Madurai drew the attention of the whole world. All should Congratulate Mr. Rajanayagam, EO of Madurai Meenakshiamman Temple and the persons who had participated in the trust board meeting (date not mentioned by the EO) for coming up with a proposal to ban the practice of breaking coconuts to provide greater security cover to the Temple. The proposal is indeed the idea of the 21st century. Those who brought it deserve a collective Nobel. No terrorist in the world has so far thought of this very simple IED.”


A few others said, “Why only coconut? What about other things including our dress? Expectation of support for any new move should have a reciprocal measure. Following the role model of Gandhiji who reduced his dress to a single towel in Madurai, Mr. Rajanayagam and those on his side can lead the devotees into the Meenakshiamman temple as nude saints (mature souls who give up even their dress in pursuit of the ultimate). The genius of Mr. Rajanayagam has offered the simplest way to be detached from the world.”


The legal perspective


It is unfortunate that Executive Officer Rajanayagam is ignorant of the rules of the TN act 22 of 1959. The present proposal violates section 25 (page 62) and section 105 (page 165) of the above HR&CE Act (refer : The Tamilnadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act 1959 (Tamilnadu act 22 of 1959) by S. Rajaraman, B.A., B.L.,- Deputy secretary to government, Law Department, Government of Tamilnadu (retd.,) - published by C. Sitaraman & Co Pvt. Ltd.- Reprint Apr. 2004).


According to AIR 1936, Madras 973, 71 MLJ 588, 1939 (2) MLJ 661, Section 44 of the law weekly 559, the proposal of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple board seems not to know its own powers.


In a case (1969) pertaining to the interference by the EO in the Tirupathi temple in the size and cost of laddus, the High Court bench in AP containing the honorable judges, Justice Vaidya and Justice Sriramulu quashed the order of the EO on the basis that it infringed on the rights conferred by Article 25 & 26 of the constitution.


Mr. Rajanayagam and the Meenakshi Amman Temple board should have overruled the suggestions of the law enforcing department that the issue was beyond their domain.




As the government has asked for opinions from the general public, it is our responsibility to convey our strong protests condemning the proposal and demanding its immediate withdrawal.


I have floated an online petition addressed to the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu with a copy to the Commissioner HR & CE Department. I request readers to kindly visit the link and sign the petition and register your protest.


The government must be forced to withdraw the outrageous proposal.


The author is a freelance journalist; he lives in Chennai

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