The Madurai bench of Madras High Court has ordered that police should ensure a dress code for people entering temples —dhoti and shirt or pyjama “with upper cloth” for men and saree or half-saree or churidar “with upper cloth” for women. Children can wear “any fully covered dress”.
The court also directed the state government to take a decision on this issue and directed the authorities to implement the court-mandated dress code from January 2016. It also directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to communicate to all temples to strictly adhere to the dress code.
The order, issued by Justice S Vaidyanathan on November 26, came during the hearing of a writ petition seeking the court’s permission to hold a “Gramiya Adal Padal Vizha” (musical dance programme) at a temple in Akkiyampatti village in Trichy district. The court said the objective of the order is to restrict devotees from wearing improper clothing.
“According to Christianity, a general lesson from the New Testament is that we should dress for public worship in a way that is generally considered appropriate. Standards of dress are different from church to church and change over time, but we should avoid any style of dress that is offensive or sends a message opposing the church community’s values,” the judgment said.
The judge observed that Islam also insists on a dress code: “Sleeves should reach to each wrist and the hair should be covered by a headscarf. Pants or skirts that are too revealing, clingy, or tight should not be worn and the dress permissible to men for worship is that they should wear long pants and plain shirts without messages or slogans when visiting mosques.”
The judgment said that prescribing dress code for devotees is inevitable in Tamil Nadu “to enhance the spiritual ambience among devotees”. It also referred to the recently imposed dress code banning short skirts and shorts in Somnath temple and a similar rule in Tirupati temple.