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Tamil Nadu: A temple suspends two archakas for handing out "Vibhuti" packets with a picture of Mother Teresa

Two archakas were suspended on May 2 as a result of an incident involving the distribution of 'vibhuti', or holy ash, packages with Mother Teresa's picture at the Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. The activities of the archakas were deemed to be improper by joint commissioner Kumaresan and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) division, and they were suspended for a period of six months.

According to reports, the 'vibhuti' packages were given without the knowledge or consent of the temple management by Archakas Somanathan and Muthukumarasamy. Numerous visitors from all over the state flock to the celebrated Annamalaiyar temple during the Chithirai month (mid-April to mid-may). According to sources, renowned clothing firm Mathew Garments delivered the temple the contentious “vibhuti” packages, which had Mother Teresa's picture on one side and the corporate brand on the other and caused anger.

Hindu Munnani leaders sought fast and severe punishment for those guilty after learning about the event, stating that it was an effort at conversion. Following an investigation, Kumaresan suspended the two archakas for six months, preventing them from entering the temple or engaging in any rituals. “They distributed the 'vibhuti' packets, which were given with good intent,” a staff member who wished to remain unnamed said. But the issue was with Teresa's appearance on the cover, not with the distribution. While many other companies provide the same service, their packets will not contain any images.

Vibhuti packets are often funded or sponsored by benefactors and given out to temple visitors.

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