Kerala HC says ‘no’ to churidar inside Padmanabha Swamy temple

The court also said the customs must be continued as it is, and observed that the temple executive officer has no authority to change them

Kerala HC says ‘no’ to churidar inside Padmanabha Swamy temple

Eight days after the Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, issued an order allowing women devotees to enter wearing churidars or salwars, the Kerala High Court on Thursday nullified the order.

While hearing a petition filed by private parties, the court opined that the final decision should be taken by the temple Thanthri.

The court also said the customs must be continued as it is, and observed that the temple executive officer has no authority to change them.


Last week, the executive officer of the temple had issued an order allowing women to enter into the temple wearing churidar, inviting protest from several right wing Hindu groups.

According to the terms and conditions available on the the website page of the temple: "Entry is restricted to those who profess the Hindu religion. There is a special dress code. The dress code for men is dhoti with or without angavastra. The dress codes for women are sarees, dhoties or oavadas with blouse or other coverings as appropriate to their age. Salvar sets and other modern dresses are not allowed. Young girls below 12 years may wear gowns. No other types of dress should not be worn or taken inside the temple.

The temple has historically frowned at 'stitched' garments. The reasons why stitched outfits are proscribed in temples are not hard to trace. Up until the turn of the 20th century, men and women of Kerala only wore a mundu (dhoti) and at most, a neriyathu or angavastram to cover the chest. The blouse and shirt arrived much later on the scene, and it somehow came to be believed that ritual dressing should not include stitched clothes.

Moreover, there is a casteist angle to the tradition. According to some historians, tailors or pannans were seen as "low caste" men, and clothes touched or cut by their hands could not be worn to temples.

But the rule has been subverted for both convenience and commerce over the ages. Devadasi dancers and musicians were permitted to wear blouses but those who other menial clothes could not wear those. And today, the temple allows visitors if they tuck a dhoti into the waist-belt of trousers/jeans/shorts or hurriedly tied it in a knot around the salwar and pull it over the kurta, thereby, managing the farce of being dressed as per the shrine's dress code - saris for women, skirts for girls and dhotis for shirtless men.