KJ Yesudas, India's most versatile singer and Aasthana Gayakan (official singer) of Kerala state, is permitted to visit the Mookambika Temple in Kollur, Thirupathi in Andhra, Attukal in Trivandrum but he is not allowed to bow before the divine figure he reverends most: The Lord Krishna idol at Guruvayoor.
Why? Because apparently its not the Gods who decide whom they will bless in their abodes each day, but a faction of His clergymen who determine who gets to see the Gods. So, who is the boss?
One thing which always perplexes me. Yesudas, though born in Christianity and still practicing the faith, has openly expressed his belief in Lord Krishna, and a desire to revere the idol at Guruvayoor (though recently he opined that he didn't want to enter somewhere he wasn't welcome). The experience he had at Guruvayoor, along with his Guru and mentor Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar still remains a melancholic episode in the history of the divine shrine. Here is what happened years back, something which Yesudas still reminisces with a heavy heart.
The Hindu, April 17, 2007
"During Ekadesi, my guru used to visit Guruvayur, offer pujas and render a concert as an offering. Since I was forced to keep off the confines of the temple, he too decided to stay out and we sang together before the Parthasarathy temple. The Divine Grace of Guruvayurappan can be felt in no small measure here, too, he had said. Though I had said that my guru himself was the embodiment of the Lord, I was really pained, and that sorrow haunts me even now. But for me, my guru could have sung at the temple."
Ironic of all, a savage chunk of the popular devotional Krishna songs are sung by Yesudas, and his voice has no prohibition whatsoever anywhere. Even in sacred temple of Sabarimala, Lord Ayyappa is put to sleep every single night by this song sung by Yesudas.
The issue got a political whip when it was taken up by the commie ministers of Kerala. When Minister G. Sudhakaran opened his holy mouth for Yesudas it immediately became clear that the temple doors would remain closed for the prolific singer. The Minister was taken to the cleaners by the NSS (Nair Services Society) who represent the high-voice in the temple governance. What pissed off the NSS and the likes is the apparent Govt attitude of treating the temples like inexhaustible milking cows. The Govt makes a fortune out of Guruvayoor, Sabarimala et al but has scant regard for the infrastructure and facilities of the shrines. On top of it, the Govt controls the temples via the Devaswam Board, a corrupt seedy misrepresented politico-religious organization, and the NSS accuse the Govt of trying to dictate terms, for political mileage.
The Congress-led governments never wanted to burn their fingers playing with this 'sensitive' issue and when it comes to the commie Govt, who are certified atheists, sparks fly. Nobody wants to get caught in between, Yesudas the last man!
I do think debates in the right way are going to solve this issue. India has given constitutional rights to practice any religion, and so has it promised discrimination in any Govt controlled organizations. So I believe the temples come under that law as well, as they're under a state managed organization.
There is another side to the argument that places like Guruvayoor should be protected from becoming mere places of tourist importance where anyone and everyone can step in and have a stroll around. Maintaining the sancta sanctorum I suppose, but how in the world do they differentiate them now? I mean, a true believer from a lost tourist?
These controversies surrounding the places of worship are nothing new. The Vayalar Ravi punyaaham saga hasn't deserted our memories yet, all because the Congress politician had married a Christian. Long before that Indira Gandhi wasn't allowed into another solace Jagannath Temple in Puri because she was married to a Parsi.
lol, considering the spike in the inter-religious marriages in our society it may be necessary for the temple authorities to make sure all the visitors come with their birth & marriage certificates and a family tree if applicable. Also its only a complete fool that would believe that currently non-Hindus and non-believers doesn't gain entrance to the temple premises in Guruvayoor. I believe as per the current laws there is nothing to prevent our previous Devaswam Minister from visiting the temple. He has locked antlers with many holy folks and pretty much treats all the religious bodies and institutions with thorough contempt. But still someone like Yesudas is banned. Apocalyptic..
Is it God, or is it just the man interpreting the verses?
Some people say its time for a second Guruvayoor Satyagraham, on the lines of the original one 75 years back which opened the doors for backward castes and dalits. Change is a universal law. Mankind, societies and even religions are not insular. Religion doesn't exist in vacuum, it is most closely knit with the social fabric, and exhibiting rigidity to change with the changing society doesn't augur well at all. It will only push people away from the shrines, and arguably away from God. Check history, all faiths have run through turbulent times, reformed themselves over and over and diluted their fundamentalist approaches... Want examples?
Galileo and his heliocentrism brought in severe wrath of the 17th Century Christian priests but now the Church stands corrected and has apologized to the treatment meted out to the great Astrologer.
Islam, by staying on its foundations, have started giving the fairer sex the fair deal. Kuwait has given voting rights to women, and they're even getting behind the steering wheels even in more conservative societies.
Catholic church is at crossroads again on the issue of Homosexuality, depending on how one man, the Pope, thinks what is the better thing based on the changing social circumstances.
Hinduism has come through many a changes. Guruvayoor itself has seen a massive change in practices when it opened doors to the backward classes after that historical Satyagraha in 1935.
Still, Gods appear a good few steps away from man, courtesy our religious bodies. No wonder the no: of people who're convinced that its the homo sapiens that invented God and religion are on the rise; there are far too many imperfections in the way our temples, churches and mosques deal with and propagate the concept of the Creator.
Thankfully enough, there are sparks of brain-storm sessions around. Old liners apart, a section of high priests are already talking about changing the rigid laws to suit both the believers and the customs. Like the war of the religions, the fight between fundamentalists vs liberals appear to carry on...And historically, it has been the latter avant-garde class that've come out victorious, most often than not.
There are two ways to look at it, be you a conservative or a reformist. Please answer this if you're severely aligned to the right of center. Consider myself to be a blue-blood atheist like our minister Sudhakaran. Your rules don't prohibit our entry to the premises, do they? In that case you're holding on to a practice which mocks itself by keeping someone like Yesudas away. In simple, you are pushing an honest and devoted believer away from God. Why act as the only genre of malayalees in the world who can't recognize the godly voice of Yesudas?
For the forward-thinking reformist ostriches who have fully buried their head in the sand, consider this. Yesudas, at 70, is reaching the twilight of an exemplary blessed life. If he exits the world-stage without fulfilling his long-standing wish to visualize the Lord then you're as well responsible for it...
Either way, will you escape His wrath?