Devotees line up outside a temple where the dress code has been imposed.
Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government has challenged the Madras High Court's order prescribing a dress code for devotees visiting temples across the state that came into force from January 1.
In November last year, disposing a petition seeking permission for a cultural festival, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had prescribed pyjamas or shirt with trousers for men visiting temples. Men were also allowed to wear dhoti. Women devotees were told to wear either a full or half sari or salwar kameez with shawl.
In a detailed notice placed outside temples, the Tamil Nadu government has said women visiting temples cannot wear leggings, jeans, skirts and miniskirts. Men can't wear lungi, shorts or Bermuda shorts. Visitors can't wear T-shirts either.
Though, in its appeal, the state government says the court order is not in consonance with the existing Tamil Nadu Temple Entry Authorisation Act, 1947 which permits each temple to frame its own dress code according to local customs.
A senior officer who did not want to be named said, "For instance, one temple has a tradition of allowing in only bare chested men. This order would violate the temple's right to frame its own rules".
Devotees are divided over the court order. Jyotika Sibal, a professional, said "A temple is not a place for a fashion parade. We appropriately dress for various occasions like for formal meetings and parties. A dress code for a temple is welcome". Aswini, a law student, said, "I'm uncomfortable with the court dictating what we should wear in a temple. What's wrong in coming to temple in jeans? It covers the whole body. God doesn't discriminate on the basis of our dress."
Though some temples have begun denying entry to those who do not comply with the new dress code, many officials say it is hard to implement in the long run for want of manpower. Some temples are also toying with the idea of renting formal clothing to help devotees.