The Malabar Devaswom Board under the Government of Kerala has taken over the Mattannur Mahadeva Temple in Kannur amidst heavy protests by devotees. The board officials arrived at the temple around 10 in the morning of 13 October and took over the temple under police protection.
Devout Hindus allege that the Kerala government is eyeing privately managed temples that generate good revenue.
These temples used to be protected by the last monarchy in Kerala until the British usurped them while governments of independent India never gave them back to the devotees. Till the late mediaeval era, the Maharajah of Travancore would appoint priests and sevadars to maintain the ritualistic traditions of these temples.
Currently, about 1,600 temples are under the Malabar Devaswom Board in six districts. From April 2021, the Devaswom Board had said that salaries would be paid on the revised scale and that the salary arrears that had been standing for years would be paid to the employees as soon as possible. But no action has been taken in this regard. With this, the salaries and other matters of the employees of Mattannur Mahadeva Temple are in jeopardy.
Devotees of Shiva allege that the board is now seizing all the famous temples in Malabar and asking for local help for the daily functioning of these temples.
In February, the board under the Kerala government had ordered a reduction in the expenses incurred by temples on festivals, holy offerings, and dakshina to the chief priest while they also revised the salary of temple staff.
Many temple workers say the board does not consider equal pay for equal work. They are moving a court of law against the Kerala administration’s decision.
The locals came to protest against the takeover of the Mattannur Mahadeva Temple by the Malabar Devaswom. But the police team headed by Mattannur CI halted the protesters. The police used force and created much tension in the temple premises. Protesters said the board took over the temple without any consultation with various stakeholders.
Places of worship for Hindus alone are under state control in India while churches, mosques, mausoleums, gurudwaras of Sikhs, sun temples of Parsis, etc are all exclusive domains of the followers of the respective religions.