Coconut or bomb? Temple mulls ban

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By G.C. SHEKHAR
  • Published 10.12.09
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Holy ban

Chennai, Dec. 9: Planning a visit to Madurai’s famed Meenakshi temple? Don’t carry coconuts.

Authorities of the 400-year-old temple are considering banning coconuts as they fear the fruit can be used by terrorists to smuggle in explosives.

Coconuts are a common offering to the gods across temples, more so in those of Tamil Nadu.

The Madurai temple had taken the first step in keeping out the fruit some six months ago when it banned breaking coconuts in front of the giant Ganesh idol inside the precincts.

Now the authorities have put up notices urging devotees to present fruits other than coconuts along with puja items like flowers and camphor.

“The trustees have taken a decision not to allow coconuts, but we have sought the views of devotees before taking a final call. They can send their views by mail or in person at our office inside the temple,” said K. Rajanayagam, joint commissioner of temple administration.

The main reason for the proposed ban is that explosives can be packed inside coconuts and, with the correct trigger mechanism, it can explode when it is cracked open either by the devotee or by the priest.

“That definitely is a possibility and even the metal detectors can miss the innards of the coconut,” explained a senior police officer.

Ever since a minor explosion inside the premises in 1996, it has been one of the most well guarded temples in the state.

But shopkeepers are neither convinced nor impressed by the proposal, which threatens their business.

“When lakhs of Aiyappa devotees carry coconuts to Sabarimala without posing any security hazard, how can a few hundred coconuts sold from our shops become a threat?” asked Saravanan, a shopkeeper outside the western tower of the temple.

The 50-odd shops sell more than a thousand coconuts every day and the figure can cross 3,000 from Friday to Saturday. The temple on an average receives more than 30,000 visitors daily, the highest in the state.

However, the final decision would be made only after December 15 after receiving feedback from the public.