Until now, the temple prescribed a strict dress code, with women required to wear sarees or tie a dhoti over their clothes.

Keralas Padmanabhaswamy temple walks into 21st century allows women to wear churidar
news Customs Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 18:44

In a historic move, Kerala's Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram allowed women devotees wearing churidars to enter the temple on Tuesday. 

Until now, the temple prescribed a strict dress code, with women required to wear sarees or tie a dhoti over their clothes. Men are also expected to wear a dhoti while inside the temple premises. 

The decision by the temple’s Executive Officer KN Satheesh comes after a Thiruvananthapuram-based lawyer Riya Raji moved the Kerala High Court against the dress code at the temple. 

Riya told The News Minute that she had decided to move legally against the custom because she felt it was highly unreasonable. 

"If a temple is enforcing something on the devotees, then it ought to be reasonable and serve a purpose that is convincing to all. What happens in the Padmanabhaswamy temple is that, there is no restriction on sleeveless clothes or short dresses... all those can be rectified once you wrap a dhoti around you. I found this impractical, because a churidar is allowed in temples across the country and is considered a decent attire.”

The Guruvayoor Temple, she added, obeyed an HC order in 2007 to allow women devotees wearing churidars to enter the temple.

“Why then can't the same rule apply here too? Such differential treatment is not justified," she said. 

Riya said that she petitioned to the High Court, after a representation given to the Executive Officer in April did not garner any response. 

Hearing her petition, filed on September 29 of this year, the court had directed the temple EO to take a decision on the matter before November 18. Satheesh, who had sought extra time to come to a decision on the matter, informed the court on Tuesday about the revised dress code. 

Speaking to The News Minute, Satheesh said that though similar demands had been made to the temple’s administrative committee in the past, they had refused to accommodate the churidar in the dress code. 

“Even now, when I sought the remarks of the administrative committee, they were of the opinion that there should not be any change in the current rule, as they did not consider churidar as a traditional attire. However, based on the responses from many women and men devotees on the matter, I have issued an order allowing women to enter the temple wearing churidars,” he said. 

One guideline in the dos and don'ts section of the temple website still reads: 

"There is a special dress code. The dress code for men is Dhoti with or without Angavastra. The dress codes for women are Sarees, Dhoties or Pavadas with blouse or other coverings as appropriate to their age. Salvar sets and other modern dresses are not allowed. Young girls below 12 years may wear gowns. No other types of dress should not be worn or taken inside the temple." 

However, Satheesh said that appropriate changes will be made to the guidelines in the near future.

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