Kerala’s famous Koodalmanikyam temple, which is all set to host its annual ten-day cultural festival, once again finds itself in the news after another Bharatanatyam dancer, Soumya Sukumaran, said she was denied a chance to perform there.
The temple authorities defended the move, saying Soumya submitted her application, knowing well that the shrine did not allow a “non-Hindu” to perform.
In an interview with news agency ANI, Soumya said she was asked not to perform because she is a Christian.
“I told them my father was a Hindu and converted to Christianity after marriage. They said had the venue been outside the temple, there would have been no problem, but since this programme will be conducted inside, it would be difficult. I stepped back then,” ANI quoted her saying.
Calling it part of the temple’s governing rules, chairman of Koodalmanikyam temple Pradeep Menon told News18 that they had “humbly requested” Soumya to withdraw her application as she was a non-Hindu.
“According to the Koodalmanikyam Devaswom Board Act, non-Hindus are not supposed to enter the temple. 90 per cent of temples in Kerala are governed by this rule, except for Sabarimala,” said Menon over the phone from Thrissur.
This is a policy matter and the decision needs to be taken at the government level, he said. Only the temple authorities cannot make a decision, it falls under the Devaswom Board regulations, Menon added.
“When we call for applications of artistes, we make it extremely clear that only Hindu artistes are allowed to perform. Despite that, we received Ms Soumya’s application. She had mentioned her name as Soumya Sukumaran. As part of our vetting process, we individually call all the applicants to get details. That is when she told us that she is a non-Hindu. She told us her name is Soumya George and she is a Christian. We very humbly told her it would not be possible to perform,” said Menon.
This controversy came a day after Mansiya VP, another Bharatanatyam dancer, was barred from performing at the temple’s festival on April 21 over her religion.
In Mansiya’s case, her performance was already listed in the temple’s programme schedule unlike Soumya who Menon said had been rejected during the vetting process itself.
In an earlier interview with News18, Mansiya said she did not believe in any religion.
“I was born and raised in a Muslim family. But now I do not belong to any religion. They even asked me whether I got converted after my marriage. My husband and his family live the Hindu way but I have no religion,” she said.
Mansiya had spoken of how she had to face the ire of the Muslim community for her passion to learn the art form.
Soumya said she had a similar experience where she was “denied religious services from the church after she performed in temples on a Hindu devotional song”.