Nearly a week after a priest sought a judicial order to restrain his two sisters from performing prayers and sharing offerings at south Delhi’s Kalkaji temple, the two parties have arrived at an out of court settlement. The two sisters, Vijay Kumari (50) and her younger sister Shashi Bala, will now receive Rs 6 lakh each from the priest, Satyadev Bhardwaj (64) and his nephew Sonal Bhardwaj.
As far as the right to offer ‘puja’ and ‘sewa’ is concerned, Kumari said “they will think about the issue later”. “The matter has been sorted. My brother has agreed to give us our share from the chadhava (offerings),” said the housewife, who has two children.
Sonal Bhardwaj said, “There is no issue now. The matter is resolved, we will give them the money.” “Both sisters have been raising this issue since 2003. Every three years, when it is our family’s turn to receive the offerings at the temple for a month, they file such a case,” said a relative of the priest, who did not wish to named.
All the duties at the temple, said to be over 5,000 years old, are performed by two groups — the Brahmins of the Bhardwaj family and the Jogis. The offerings are shared by the two groups based on a quota, with each family getting its turn after several years. Both Kumari and Bala belong to the Bhardwaj family, which will receive offerings for February.
“We get around Rs 30,000 a day in the form of offerings. It is more during festivals,” said Mukesh Bhardwaj, a priest at the temple. Satyadev’s counsel had argued that since his sisters were married into different families, their gotra (clan) had changed, and, therefore, they could not claim rights over the offerings.
But a bench of the Delhi High Court had refused to stay the trial court order, which allowed the sisters to perform ‘puja and sewa’ and claim the shares in the offerings collected at the temple. On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court bench of Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Ashutosh Kumar had said that “times have changed; now women cannot be barred from entering the Indian temples”.