A major fire broke out inside the premises of famous Meenakshi temple in Madurai in which at least 40 shops were gutted, the police said. However no one was injured, they said.
Temple authorities ruled out any sabotage and said electrical short circuit in one of the shops selling pooja articles caused the fire late Friday night.
The blaze did not cause any damage to the sculptures inside the temple though many of it was covered in soot, police said. All the sculptures in the 1000-pillared hall were saved by the timely intervention of the temple officials, workers and the fire and rescue service personnel.
A team of fire extinguishers battled past mid night to put out the fire and bring the situation under control. Poojas would be held as per schedule, and cleaning up of the eastern side of the temple would be done in three days, officials said.
Various organisations including Hindu Baktha Jana Sabha, VHP and Hindu Munnani had been demanding to vacate the shops from the temple premises and keep the premises clean.
Meanwhile, devotees were allowed to offer worship in the temple Saturday morning. District Collector Veera Raghava Rao, who was at the temple, told reporters that there was no need to panic, and devotees could offer worship as usual.
About 300 police personnel have been deployed in and around the temple for security.