CHENNAI, INDIA, August 2, 2022 (News 9): The Madras High Court has intervened and halted pooja and other Hindu religious ceremonies at a temple in Salem, Tamil Nadu, where a statue of the Buddha was being worshiped as Thalaivetti Munniyappan, a Hindu Deity, and declared the place as a Buddhist temple. The court also directed the state archaeology department to take charge and display prominently on the premises that the statue in the temple is that of Lord Buddha. The High Court’s order came after the identity of the statue in the temple was questioned before the court by a Buddha Trust. The trust claimed that the statue in the Periyeri village temple was of the Buddha and over a period of time, the statue had been converted into one of a Hindu Deity and was being worshiped by Hindus. The claims of the Buddha Trust were, however, disputed and it was argued that the temple had been treated as a temple of Deity Thalaivetti Muniappan for a considerable period of time and that people in the vicinity came to worship at the place believing the same.

To resolve the issue, the High Court directed the state archaeology department to inspect the statue in the temple. Last year, the state archaeology department submitted a report to the court stating that the statue in the temple was of Lord Buddha. The report said that when the archaeology department officials visited the temple, it was covered in thick layers of sandal, kumkum, turmeric, ash and oil. In order to inspect the statue, it was required to remove such coating from the sculpture. Therefore, with the help of the temple priest and his assistants, the statue was cleaned thoroughly. The report added, “The sculpture is made of hard stone. The figure is seated in a position known as ardha padmasana on a lotus pedestal. The hands are positioned in the dhyana mudra. The head shows lakshanas of the Buddha such as curly hair, ushnisha and elongated earlobe.” The state archaeology department concluded, “After inspecting the sculpture and carefully examining the available archaeological and historical evidences at our disposal, the committee collectively expressed their opinion that the sculpture depicts several mahalakshanas (great traits) of the Buddha.” Relying on the report, the High Court held, “In view of the categorical report submitted by the 6th respondent (archaeology department), the assumption of the HR & CE Department that it is a temple is no longer sustainable and the control must go into the hands of some other authority.” Hence the said temple was restored to Lord Buddha’s devotees.

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