The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja, not bubbly, for new year

Chennai, Dec. 30: When the bubbly pops across the world tomorrow night, temples in Tamil Nadu will be under pressure to ring in the new year with special pujas.

“The agamas, which is the basis of the rituals and practices of temple worship, do not permit such special pujas to ring in the new English year,” a source close to the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt said this evening.

The Sankaracharya could not be reached for comment as he was in the middle of a function, held to pay homage to senior acharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathy who passed away in 1994. Union human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi was also present at the function.

There are several temples in Tamil Nadu like the famous Karumari Amman Temple at Thiruverkadu which organise special pujas at the stroke of midnight on January 1.

“We have been doing this regularly for the last 30 years, more in deference to the wishes of the devotees who consider it a very special occasion even if it is only the English new year,” a spokesman for the temple said.

The Hindu religious and charitable endowments department of the state government, which oversees the administration of all Hindu and Jain temples in Tamil Nadu, has left the issue to the “existing practices” in various temples.

In Vaishnavite temples, for instance, the Dhanur Maasa puja begins from 3 am on the first day of the year.

A spokesman for the department said that going by the agama shastras, after the Arthajama puja (the last puja in the night to symbolically put the main deities to sleep), the temple should be closed for at least an hour. There can be some special early morning pujas, depending on the individual temple’s customs and practices, but there cannot be any “midnight puja”, he added.

The Vadapalani Andavar temple dedicated to Lord Muruga in Chennai performs a special abhishegam (welcoming ritual) for the deity at 2 am on January 1 when it is smeared with sandalwood paste containing coins and then bathed.

But this is several hours after the Arthajama puja has been performed the previous night, sources said.

Though religious heads are firm on sticking to temple rituals, the religious department has left it to the individual temples to abide by “practices that are already in vogue”.

If some private temples, which do not come under the department’s purview and audit, organise pujas on the midnight of January 1, “there is nothing we can do about it”, sources said.

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