Tamilians do not simply pray in temples; they see them as group areas that reaffirm social unity
In early November, the Tamil Nadu BJP president, L Murugan, launched the ‘Vetrivel Yatra’, a tour to cowl the six abodes, Arupadaiveedu, of Lord Murugan thought of to be one of many native Tamil gods. The plan was based mostly on one of the crucial profitable templates the BJP has used, a yatra within the title of god. According to the senior brass of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, this yatra was supposed to ship a message that Tamil Nadu is a non secular land and that any “insult to Lord Muruga will not be tolerated”.
Pictures of L Murugan wearing saffron holding the vel, the spear of the deity would possibly but be one of the crucial beguiling and contradictory pictures seen in Tamil politics, which is understood for symbolism. Tamil Nadu, for lengthy, has had a convention of tolerance and secularism and this yatra was to have a polarising impact.
The Vetrivel Yatra ignited the fury of even the AIADMK, the BJP’s ally. Through its official mouthpiece Nammadhu Amma, the celebration hit out on the BJP saying that Tamil Nadu is a state of peace and concord, and that no one might be allowed to conduct disruptive yatras.
Temples in Tamil Nadu have been locations of huge significance for at the least the previous 15 centuries. They haven’t solely been locations of worship, however have held significance within the social, financial and political developments of their communities. People in Tamil Nadu have gathered at temples not simply to supply their prayers, however to additionally collect as a group and take part in rituals reaffirming social unity.
According to famend scholar Arjun Appadurai, the Tamil temple has been considered a stage, ie a ‘symbolic area’ the place social statuses are publicly displayed and generally challenged. That the Tamil temple is a spot to cement identification could be seen within the popping-up of Murugan temples in numerous components of the world, from Montreal to Mauritius to Singapore to the border city of Moreh in Manipur. There are Murugan temples in 5 continents now, which as a consequence, has allowed for a unity inside the Tamil diaspora in these continents.
Indeed, revival of Tamil tradition additionally coincided with the renovation and popularisation of Murugan temples throughout the state. Recognising this, M Karunanidhi, the late five-time chief minister and president of the DMK asserted that Murugan was the god of DMK, within the temple city of Palani in 1971. Similarly, Tamil identification has been asserted by way of the Mariamman temple, the place completely different variations of the “Amman” manifestations of Kali/Durga could be discovered throughout the state. The religion in Murugan and Amman is so robust in Tamil Nadu, that for hundreds of years, folks’s social, political and economical lives have revolved across the temple and their deities.
The manufacturing of a collective identification of the “Tamil” has for lengthy been cemented by territory, notably the six abodes, as a result of a community of temples could be mapped, bordered and proven whereas a collective identification can not.
Herein lie the misgivings of Hindutva in Tamil Nadu, as a result of it doesn’t recognise the collective identification that the Tamil temple has given to the folks of this state for hundreds of years.
The French sociologist, Pierre-Yves Troulliet, makes a big level the place he argues that Tamil temples have been central to triggering native improvement and settlement development. Indeed, no south Indian city has been based at random, however at all times the place a fantasy recounts that the divine manifested itself there (usually a buried statue of a linga or a goddess). Madurai, Tiruvanamalai, Tiruchengodu, Palani are wonderful examples. Even within the sprawling metropolis of Chennai, the areas of Mylapore and Triplicane originated with the Kapaleeshwar and Parthasarthy temple as its centre. The narrative that Tamil Hindus are in peril appears to have dissonance as a result of a big a part of the Tamil identification is to be religious.
Another technique of the BJP has been to painting the DMK as an anti-Hindu celebration, attacking the DMK’s lengthy legacy of atheism and rationalism. While atheism has lengthy been an ideology of the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), members of the DMK have adopted the Tamil custom of being deep believers in Murugan and Amman. For many years, native celebration leaders have contributed to their native temple funds and organised Annadhanams, the sacred custom of providing meals to giant teams of individuals inside the temple. When I visited the houses of sure celebration leaders, I observed giant pooja rooms with huge portraits of Murugan and was even as soon as requested to attend for over an hour as a neighborhood DMK chief completed his morning pooja.
The DMK minority wings secretary the MLA of Gingee, G Masthan even contributed Rs 11,000 in the direction of the development of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. He additionally claimed that he has attended over 320 temple festivals within the final 5 years. The DMK’s manifesto for the upcoming election has allotted Rs 1,000 crore for the renovation and consecration of Hindu temples and has promised to permit folks of all castes to turn out to be clergymen. All these acts are a part of the shared and lived realities of those native communities, because the DMK is a cadre-based celebration with a deep connection to floor realities.
The DMK for lengthy has unequivocally acknowledged that it’s not towards any faith or temple, however towards the concept of Brahminism, the place Brahmins are superior in standing by delivery and others are inferior. This rationalism and secularism has allowed for the Tamil identities and Hinduism to be interpreted and re-interpreted. If Muruga and Amman weren’t topic to interpretation and thus to reinterpretation, they wouldn’t proceed to information the Tamil folks over lengthy centuries, one thing which Lord Ram and Hindutva do not appear to permit.
For Tamil Nadu, this rationalism and secularism isn’t a bug however a characteristic for continuity of its identification.
The writer is an alumnus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an unbiased researcher working on the intersection of caste, politics and training. Views expressed are private