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Monday, August 6, 2007

Spotlight: Tirupati mulls dress code for women

Moved by a complaint of a Lord Balaji devotee who was perturbed by women worshippers wearing what he considered immodest clothes, the Tirupati temple is contemplating guidelines to help women look adequately pious.

It may become mandatory for women to wear saris, or other traditional Indian attire, if the temple’s “advisory on dress code” comes into effect.

“We will take up the issue at the next board meeting this month,” said Ramapulla Reddy, spokesman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD).

The decision was prompted by a call made earlier this month by an incensed devotee from Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. He had protested against women entering the temple in “indecent” clothes.

The TTD’s executive officer G Balaramaiah promised to look into the issue. He was contacted during the temple’s interactive initiative, “dial your executive officer”.

TTD spokesman Reddy said: “It’s customary for women to wear saris and men to wear dhotis, but many wear whatever they like.” TTD’s male employees have to wear dhotis and white t-shirts, and women work in saris.

However, not all temple administrators endorse the introduction of a dress code. “People know what to wear when visiting a temple,” said Hanumant B Jagtap, chief executive officer of the Siddhivinayak temple.

“At the most, they can be advised not to wear Western clothes. But compelling them to wear Indian dresses is inviting trouble.”

But a few devotees seem in favour of sartorial curbs. “The Tirupati shrine is not a restaurant where you can wear anything you fancy,” said Naveen Hegde, a Bangalore resident and a staunch follower.

Some women, however, think the champions of dress code in temples are arguing with skimpy logic: “Ban men from entering some temples in Kerala without shirts before thinking of imposing a dress code at other temples,” said Madhu SM, a Bangalorean. “

Temples are places to offer prayers and to find peace of mind. Devotees should come to visit God and not look at women.”

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