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Temples Questions

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Namaste all,

I have been told that only priests are allowed to go inside the temples in India. Is this true? I've seen plenty of temple web sites where non-priests are inside the temple. My other question is, since I'm a non-Indian Hindu will I have to sign a paper that says I'm Hindu before they let me in some places? What is the process of that? Thanks all for your help.


It is not true. All are allowed inside temples. There are many temples where the entry into the Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbha Graha) is restricted to priests. This is true of most of the South Indian temples. The reasons for this is

1. The conception of purity. The protima of the God is not to be touched by anyone except the priests. Even here not all the priests who are allowed into the Garbha Graha are allowed to touch the Murti.

2. Many images were/are adorned with expensive ornaments. This is also a security measure.

Now there are many temples in North India where everyone is allowed to touch and do worship of the idol. This could have been an offshoot of the Bhakthi movement. Again many North Indian temples do not have an image and have only a Pinda or Linga. There is no adornment with jewels.

The surprising difference between the North/Eastern Indian Hinduism and the South is that Lord Siva is considered to be an easily approachable God in the North/East and there are very few restrictions in Siva temples whereas the Vishnu temples have more restrictions. You can touch the Linga in Kedarnath but you cannot go near the image in Bhadrinath.

Even in the private temple owned by my family, only the priest is allowed to touch the Murti. Family women enter the Garba Graha for bringing in prasad and flowers. But men are not allowed.

Now about Non-Hindus and converted Hindus

There are some temples in India who have restricted entry to only Hindus. You will find notice boards displaying this. This does cause problems to Converted Hindus from the West. Because of skin color they are more noticeable and could be questioned.

Arya Samaj issues a certificate about conversion to Hinduism. This is accepted by most of the temples. But there was a problem recently in the Guruvyur temple when they refused to accept such a certificate. The problem is even after the authorities accept such a certificate, a person could be questioned by the public, leading to embarrassing situations.

I advise my Hindu friends/relatives from the West to keep away from such temples.

Can you recognise those temples easily? The ones that are finicky? Are the signs ever in English? So it is generally okay for someone to go into the temple and take darshan, leave a gift, circumambulate and leave? I don't mean to ask so many questions, but I was rather confused and a little disturbed thinking that if I goto India someday I can't go into any of those magnificent temples. It kinda bummed me out. Thanks for replying.



i am very sorry to say that nacchi is correct.

i agree with you, re the old temple architectures in the south are alone worth a visit to india. though it might look a bit devious, if you had thiruneeru/viboothi/ash on your forehead, and may be a dot of kumkum, you might be ok.

i sincerely wish you have a great experience, whenever you make it to india. it is also good to have someone local, if at all possible, to accompany you. that removes any bluntness of any incidents initiated by the ignorasmuses.

cheers. :)
Namaste kunjuppu,

I guess maybe if I do ever get the chance, maybe I'll just stick to North India. I've had a long and emotionally painful process of finally finding where I belong as far as religion, way of life, etc. Hinduism is where I know I belong and I don't know how well I could handle a rejection, especially if it turned into a big deal.

What is the reasoning for being so weird about these issues? Sanatana Dharma teaches tolerance and respect, not that kind of stuff. I suppose, though, it could be the fact we're in the Kali Yuga? That I could definitely understand. If that is the reason for all of that stuff, I think I could probably just let it slide off my shoulders.


The boards in such temples are only in English. In the temples of Tamil Nadu which are architecturally famous all people are allowed in outer parikrama. The restrictions are only for the inner parikrama. Some temples of Kerala and the temple at Puri have become notorious for such restrictions.

The restrictions arose because of incidents where the non-believers do not show enough respect. Prasadams given have been thrown away immediately. I have taken some of my Christian friends to temples. Those who came with me respected our traditions and never indulged in any act which could be construed as showing disrespect to the Deity.

The restrictions have been placed to prevent untoward incidents in the temples. In the same Guruvayur temple I have seen Kerala Christian ladies (You can recognize them by their traditional dress) standing in the queue for Dharshan. They were so devout that nobody objected.

More often than not such incidents are created by certain groups to get some publicity. That is why famous people and Westerners are the targets for such incidents. Newspapers would not bother about a devout born Christian lady being shown the door in Guruvayur.

The only Hindus who object to such restrictions are the group who never go to temples.
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Namaste il_guy,

Just some few personal observations...

I know of a couple of Australians who regularly visits during the festival times to well-known temples of Chidambaram and Thiruvanamalai. Because of their devotion to Lord Nataraja, they have managed to gain the acceptance of the chief-priest of the temple. Their mutual understanding blossomed so much so that the chief -priest agreed to visit their land for some blessing and rituals.

Real Love for God, culture, Knowledge and devotion can move mountains, If one's motive is love for the above, then any rejection should not be a major drama.

Just my preceptions...

All the temples in Tamilnadu barring a few in the south most district (called Kanyakumari district) allow all people into temples. There are a large number of foreigners worshipping in the Tiruvannamalai temple. A good number of foreigners have settled in Tiruvannamalai. some of them wear dhotis, sport tuft, and wear sacred thread even. Prof Swaminathan and a few of the the frontline devotees of Bhagawan Ramana performed Upanayanam to some of them and the tradition is followed by them. They perform anushtanams daily in all dedication and devotion, including complete Surya Namaskaram, not within four walls but in front of the Sun in open very meticulously. They are vegetarians and donot smoke or take liquor. There are a few visiting foreigners who obviously are toruists and yet there is nmo objection made to them. Some Germans and Australians who come regularly to Tiruvannamalai year after year have maintained their life style - vegetarian, non-smoker and teetotaller. In fact they resent the number of bars that have come up in the town.

With regard to Madurai, the foreigners are not forbidden to enter the temple. Some of them specifically participate in the Artha Jama Pooja and the Palliarai pooja in the night.

The Kerala temples are the ones that donot generally allow the foreigners inside the temple. Even here my muslim friends (including Guruvayur) have gone and made archanas. Only thing is that they gave their name a Hindu one and did the archana. One fellow went one step further he did archana for himself but said that it is for his friend muslim! When asked he said to me that his mind was with Guruvayurappan and he did want to do the puja but the people wont understand if he told the truth. He heart of heart sought pardon from the Lord for using dubious means to do the puja, he said. So it goes.
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