At least three temples in Uttar Pradesh have recently put up posters on its premises, denying entry to devotees who are not dressed "decently." One of the temples has also banned Muslims from its premises.
The latest in the list of temples to enforce a dress code is Shri Radha Damodar Temple in Mathura, which issued a notice in this regard on 21 May.
Speaking to the media, an employee of the temple, Chand Goswami, said, "The clothes of western culture are slowly dominating the Sanatan Dharma," and appealed to devotees to visit the temple only in "traditional" clothes.
Posters that read, "Come to the temple wearing modest clothes," have also been put up at the temple.
On the face of it, while the dress code applies to all devotees, statements by the temple administrations show that it is primarily directed at women and girls.
'Women in Short Clothes Distract Others'
Shri Balaji Maharaj Temple in Muzaffarnagar was the first temple to issue a notice regarding a dress code recently.
On 16 May, a post by the Balaji Temple Committee went viral on social media, which banned devotees, especially girls and women, from wearing "indecent" clothes on the temple premises.
Elaborating on this move by the temple administration, the legal advisor of the temple, Alok Sharma, told the media that "today, youngsters enter the temple wearing any (kind of) clothes. It is indecent to come to the temple wearing such clothes, due to which other devotees in the temple get upset."
"We have observed that some of the women who come for a darshan of the deity in short clothes distract others. The women's heads should be covered while performing puja. The temple is a sacred place, and we all should preserve the dignity of the place," Sharma said, as reported by The Indian Express.
As per the temple committee's notice, if any devotee comes to the temple wearing short clothes, half pants, bermudas, mini skirts, nightsuits, or ripped jeans, they must stand outside. Posters and placards stating the same were also placed outside the temple.
The committee, in the notice, also wrote that those who do not follow the instructions would be fined.
Not Just Dress Code, Ban on Muslim Entry Too
Following in the footsteps of the Muzaffarnagar temple, similar posters were put up in Shri Gilharaj Ji Temple in Aligarh on 18 May. The temple comes under the All India Avdhoot Yogi Mahasabha of the Nath sect, whose national president is Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath.
More than 100 temples of Aligarh district fall under the All India Avdhoot Yogi Mahasabha.
But, in addition to the dress code, the temple also denied entry to Muslims.
Yogi Kaushalnath, who has been working as the mahant of the temple for the last 17 years, told the media that the temple administration has taken two important decisions recently – the first being the denial of entry to Muslims to the temple.
"Recently, the government had also formed an SIT [Special Investigation Team] regarding the incident of Muslim men trying to offer a chaadar in Nashik's Trimbakeshwar temple. This step has been taken to ensure that no such incident takes place here."Yogi Kaushalnath, Mahant
The temple has issued a dress code, according to which men and women can visit the temple only in "decent" clothes.
Welcoming both the advisories, Ashok Pandey, the national spokesperson of the All India Hindu Mahasabha, claimed, "Incidents of love jihad is increasing in the country, and obscenity in religious places is definitely a matter of concern for Sanatan."
He further urged heads of temples across the country to decide the prescribed clothing for devotees, "so that the dignity of the temple is maintained."
While devotees have extended their support to the notices, many users on social media have called these measures a "Tughlaqi decree."
The Uttar Pradesh administration, however, has not commented on the matter, terming it an "internal issue" of the temples involved.
It is important to note that in February 2022, the Madras High Court, while hearing a petition seeking an order to permit only believers of 'Sanatana Dharma' to enter Hindu temples, had said:
"What is paramount? The country or the religion? It is shocking that somebody is going behind a hijab and somebody is going behind a dhoti."
The court had observed that "certain forces" had raised controversies relating to dress code – and that it was spreading all over India. "Is it one country or is it divided by religion or something like that. This is quite surprising," the bench had said.
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