On 29th June 2023, the managing trustees of the Titular Head of Vijayanagara Samrajya published a statement regarding the Chidambaram Temple Controversy. In this statement, they explained the history of the temple, the current controversy, and the offensive stand of the government. The statement also appealed to the Tamil Nadu government to take firm steps in the conservation of temples. The statement is as follows:
The recent controversy in the Chidambaram Sri Nataraja Temple has hurt the sentiments of Hindu devotees across the country. It is seen that the officials of the TN Government (like the HR&CE department, Police etc.) are behaving in an atrociously high-handed manner with the Thillai Dikshitars who are the hereditary owners of the temple.
We see that baseless allegations are being hurled against this ancient community of worshippers and their right to administer their temple is being hindered at every step. Already the community was tarnished by the government through various baseless allegations, their minor girls were subjected to inhuman ‘two-finger’ tests among other such targeted steps taken by the officials of the state.
It is seen that a section of people, who are not believers, are raising senseless questions regarding who built the temple and how any sampradaya can be the owner of a temple built with public money. We have been roused to issue a statement in this regard because the very basis of dharma by the ancient Kings and philanthropists has been completely misunderstood by these people with no training in dharma.
When the kings built temples, they built the temples for specific sampradayas and offered the temples to said, sampradaya followers. The temples were administered by these denominations and the rulers did not own or control or administer the temple. Several inscriptions with donations end with phrases like Srivaishnava Raksha, Maaheshvara Raksha etc. to specifically emphasize the fact that the temples belonged to a specific denomination and that the denomination shall administer & protect the particular temple.
Once donated, the property does not remain public property. It belongs to a specific denomination. To put it in perspective such that even modern Indians who are separated from their roots can understand them – the government allocates lands and properties as well as subsidies to various people. Once land or property has been allocated by the government as private property, neither the government nor the general public can claim the property as theirs. Just because an apartment has been presented by the state to a family, said apartment does not become state property. Similarly, when the temples were built and offered to specific sampradayas by the rulers, the state & the general public lose the right over said temples. They are not state property anymore.
Chidambaram temple underwent great destruction during the Muslim invasions of the 14th century. Amir Khusrau records that the Shiva and Vishnu temples at Chidambaram (called Brahmastpur by him) were destroyed and the entire temple was dug up by Malik Kafur. The current temple was restored, renovated and expanded by the Vijayanagar emperors and their Nayaka subordinates after the reconquest of Tamil lands by the empire under Kumara Kampana. Emperor Krishnadevaraya built the grand gopurams of this temple. Our ancestors certainly did not consider themselves as the owners of the temple nor did they see the temple as property of the state. The temple belongs to the Dikshitars and should remain so forever till the sun and moon remain – as they should be.
We see that several centuries-old temples built and endowed by Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagar, Nayakas and other rulers which are under the administrative control of the HR&CE department – remain without proper maintenance and in many cases, without even proper pujas. The government should rather concentrate its efforts towards better maintenance of these dilapidated temples instead of unnecessarily persecuting the Dikshitars of Chidambaram temple who maintain their temple in a proper manner.
Even in the case of Chidambaram temple, it is heard by us that about 3500 acres of temple land – which were donated by various rulers including our ancestors – remain under the control of a special tahsildar who has not paid the due revenues from said lands to the temple. Instead of being protectors of traditional dharma institutions, the government & its officials have been behaving in a contrary manner.
We implore the government of Tamil Nadu to give up this politics of hatred against the Dikshitars and instead take firm steps towards maintenance and improvement of the ancient temples of the state which display the real rich culture and traditions of the Tamil land.
The recent issue regarding the Chidambaram Temple
On June 27, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department official Velvizhi, accompanied by two female police personnel, entered the Kanagasabai amidst resistance from Dikshithars and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters. The development came days after a controversy erupted claiming Pothu Dikshitars of Chidambaram Natarajar temple declined permission to devotees to offer prayers from Kanagasabai during the Aani Thirumanjanam festival.
Pothu Dikshithars are the hereditary priests and custodians of Sri Sabanayagar Temple, popularly known as Lord Nataraja Temple. As per a statement issued by Dikshitars, they were pushed down and their clothes were torn.
Notably, Deekshitars have been managing the temple for centuries. The temple has historically changed darshan timings and programs during festivals to ensure smooth management. The devotees and temple administration have been left confused and angered. Notably, Supreme Court has already ruled that the government cannot interfere in temple management. Despite the orders from the apex court, DMK continued to create controversy using HR&CE around the temple.