Kerala HC upholds tantri’s authority in temple rituals

KOCHI: Observing that a change in the prevailing religious practice of a temple can be carried out only with the consent of the tantri, the Kerala High Court quashed the decision of the Koodalmanikyam Devaswom managing committee to allow Hindu artists other than members of the Ammanoor family to perform koothu and koodiyattam at the koothambalam of the temple in Irinjalakuda, Thrissur.

Members of the family have the hereditary right to perform koothu and koodiyattam at the koothambalam of Koodalmanikyam temple.

The court observed that temple dance forms such as koothu and koodiyattam are religious and ritual ceremonies. The devaswom managing committee cannot take decisions on altering the nature of performers without the consent of tantris, it said.

A division bench, comprising Justices Anil K Narendran and P G Ajithkumar, issued the order on the petition filed by Ammanoor Parameswaran Chakyar and others challenging the decision to open the koothambalam to Hindu artists not belonging to the Ammanoor family for koothu and koodiyattam performances. The court said that there cannot be any alteration to the exclusive customary right of the Ammanoor family to perform in the koothambalam.

This is linked to temporal activities and the managing committee in the exercise of its duties under section 10 of the Koodalmanikyam Act, 2005, is expected to continue the practice without fail. In light of the provisions of section 35 of the Act, the decision of the tantris is final in the matter. Disregarding those aspects, the managing committee resolved in its meeting held on February 19, 2022 to allow other Hindu artists to also perform at the koothambalam, the judges observed.

The managing committee argued that the performance by members of the Ammanoor family is limited to a few days in a year, which leaves the koothambalam idle for long periods. That leads to its poor upkeep and consequent degeneration. It is a heritage structure built of wood. It was repaired and restored with the aid of the Centre, it said.

The court observed that while allowing viewers inside the koothambalam, no religious and customary rites being followed in the temple can be violated.

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The Kerala High Court directed has the special court, Ernakulam, to hand over the files produced by the ED to the special investigation team (SIT) of the police constituted to probe the fraud and forgery in the Karuvannur Cooperative Bank financial scam. Upon getting the files, the SIT should send them or relevant materials for expert examination, the HC observed.

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