Priest suspended for putting wrong ‘namam’

Hyderabad (PTI): After the recent controversy over the violation of Tirumala airspace by an Air India flight, flying over the sanctum sanctorum, the richest temple in India saw yet another row over the shape of the namam (tilak) on the forehead of the deity of Lord Venkateswara.

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The TTD suspended a senior priest A V Arun Dikshitulu, son of A V Ramana Dikshitulu, chief priest of Tirumala during the weekend. The action was followed by a complaint, made by the Pedda Jeeyar, one of the hereditary chiefs of a Mutt located in Tirumala. The Mutt claimed that the priests had put the Thenkalai namam instead of Vadakalai namam.

The rivalry between followers of two sects of Vaikhanasa Vaishnava tradition —Tankalai and Vadakala— at the Vaishnava Shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala is proverbial. As per the Vadakalai tradition the namam is white U shaped with a yellow paste in the middle. Similarly in the Thenkalai tradition the namam of the deity was Y shaped with a Red line tilak in the middle .

Only select priests of the particular sect of Vaikhanasa tradition are allowed to put the paste made of camphor and saffron everyday during the early morning. The symbolic Namam of the 128 feet high statue which is the principal attraction of the temple can be seen from almost half a furlong distance inside the temple. According to priests, the size, shape and details of the namam are governed by the Vaikhanasa agama Shasta. The change was noticed by Sri Pedda Jeeyar who complained to the TTD authorities. The TTD in turn kept a tab on the performance of the priest and took the decision to exclude him from Abhishekam duty after they found him erring again.

However, commenting on the controversy the temple chief priest A V Ramanadeeshitulu denied the charge of the Jeeyars and said, “We perform pujas to the presiding deity as per Vaiskhanasa agama.

Those who not have proper knowledge of Vaikhanasa agama are making allegations. It is not correct.” A TTD spokesman however said the guidelines of the Supreme Court have to be followed. “Since there was a mistake, it was corrected and the concerned priest was suspended,” he said. According to temple sources, priests are planning to go to court over the issue.

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Vasudevan Srinivasan

Thenkalais are a splinter group formed in 1803 and seized the control of Srirangam temple through a court order by John Wallace, the first British collector of Tiruchirappalli exploiting his total ignorance of Hindu religious system and traditions. They suppressed archeological evidences and misled the dvibhashi. I have collected for my book archeological and literary evidences to prove my claim. I will be very happy to answer questions from the Thenkalai group in person or otherwise.