The Tiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar temple administration on Wednesday told the Madras High Court that a decision on conducting the 17-day ‘Tirukarthigai Deepam’ festival this year would be taken at a meeting to be held with all stakeholders, including the district administration, and made known by Thursday.
Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha were told by A.K. Sriram, counsel for the temple, that the meeting would be held on Wednesday.
State Government pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayanan said a final decision on the mode of conduct of the festival would be taken by Thursday.
The submissions were made during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition filed by V. Sakthivel, State vice-president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), seeking a direction to the government and the temple administration to conduct the festival this year by following all necessary COVID-19 protocols.
Representing the petitioner, senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan said the temple administration had kept devotees in the dark with respect to conduct of the festival this year. He insisted that the temple administration should necessarily conduct the festival from November 17 to December 3, without giving up any of the rituals.
In reply, Mr. Sriram told the court that every year around one lakh devotees visit the temple on each day of the 17-day festival.
Further, five lakh devotees congregate to witness the Urchavamoorthy being taken on a temple car, and somewhere between 20 to 25 lakh devotees gather around the temple to watch the Maha Deepam.
Since the State government had issued a Government Order on October 31 permitting religious congregations of just 100 people from November 16, it was felt that the temple car festival this year should be confined to the precincts of the temple.
Nevertheless, a final decision would be taken only after hearing all stakeholders, he said.
“Every ritual is going to be conducted. It is for the district administration to take a call on allowing the devotees to witness them. There is going to be a meeting today. The guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for conduct of Puri Jagannath temple festival would be taken up for consideration,” the counsel said.
After hearing all the arguments, the judges adjourned the case to November 18.