Chakra Discussions

Racism Posing As Vedic Tradition

by Shiva das

Posted January 8, 2008

Some priests of the Jagannath Temple in Puri have been vocal recently in their condemnation of ISKCON holding Rathayatras on days not traditionally reserved for Rathayatra. They have complained to various government officials and tried to make them force ISKCON to cancel those Rathayatras. They have also started a campaign of condemnation of ISKCON over some undergarments being sold which display various Vedic deities on them. They do not complain that ISKCON is selling the undergarments; the complaint is that ISKCON isn't trying to stop merchants from selling the undergarments.

The irony is that this campaign of condemnation of ISKCON by the Puri priests is, in my opinion, nothing more than retaliation over the Puri temple priests being castigated for kicking out ISKCON devotees from the Puri temple for supposedly not being "Hindu" enough. So, according to those priests, ISKCON devotees who are not Indian in ethnicity are not "real Hindus", yet they are supposed to act like a worldwide Hindu police force who fight for the sentiments of "real Hindus" at their beck and call, even though those "real Hindus" sometimes treat non-Indian Vaisnavas lower than the dirt they track into the Puri temple.

The Puri priests claim that it is a matter of tradition to only allow born Hindus into the temple. Where did that tradition begin, and why? Is it a tradition born of sruti and smriti? Or is it a tradition born of some lesser non-Vedic reason? We know that the tradition followed at the Puri temple is not found in authentic sruti and smriti; therefore, it is a non-Vedic tradition and should be given up due to its adharmic nature.

The tradition they claim to follow is not in fact followed by those priests. They claim it is a tradition to only allow born Hindus into the temple, but in reality they only allow ethnic Indians. Even if you are not Hindu, but just ethnically Indian, you are allowed into the Puri temple. If you are not ethnically Indian, like hundreds of thousands of ISKCON congregational members around the world, then you are not allowed in the Puri temple.

The reality is that the Puri temple policy is racism — nothing more. They claim that condemnation of their not allowing non-Indians into the temple (under the guise of not allowing non-born Hindus into the temple) is "hurting the sentiments of Hindus". In fact, the opposite is true. They are the ones hurting the sentiments of Hindus with their racism pretending to be Vedic tradition. They are the ones hurting Hindu prestige and renown for religious tolerance and universalism by their transparently racist nonsense.

Editor's Note: It is the magnanimity of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Lady Subhadra that They make themselves available to people of all castes and creeds at Rathayatra. This demonstrates the Lord's attitude that He does not like to be confined — either within buildings or by arbitrary rules and regulations.

Another example of Krishna making Himself available to all, despite the attempts of some temple authorities to restrict who can see Him, is the deity of Sri Krishna installed by Sripada Madhvacharya in Udupi. In the 16th century, the devotee Kanaka das came to that temple town to worship, but was not allowed inside the temple since he was by caste a sudra. Delighted by the devotional service of Kanaka das, the deity of Lord Krishna made a hole in the back wall of the temple and turned to face out so that Kanaka could see Him. To this day everyone can have darshan of the deity through that opening.