Classical Indian singer KJ Yesudas. Photo: Flickr Commons
Classical Indian singer KJ Yesudas. Photo: Flickr Commons

For 77-year-old classical Indian singer KJ Yesudas, a Christian by birth, his planned visit to Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram will be a dream come true.

The temple authorities have already granted him permission to offer his prayers and it is up to the singer to decide the date of his visit to the shrine.

However, many Hindu devotees feel that Yesudas should not have to seek permission to enter the temple as they wake up to his devotional songs every day. For them, he is more a Hindu at heart than most Hindus. Moreover, since the doors of the famous Sabarimala and Mookambika shrines are always open to Yesudas, other temples should fmake the same gesture, they argue. But this is wishful thinking.

Forty-seven years after Yesudas sang a film song expressing his wish to see the deity of Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple, he is yet to hear a positive response from the temple authorities. He has since remained silent, hoping, it seems, that Lord Krishna will one day hear his prayers.

Interestingly, the same temple witnessed a non-violent protest (“satyagraha”) in 1930-31 demanding that Dalits be allowed into the shrine. Mahatma Gandhi described the protest as a “miracle of modern times.”

Today, when people are divided by their narrow views of politics and religion, many Hindu devotees feel temples should take a more liberal view and permit non-Hindus who believe in Hinduism as a way of life to enter. What makes Yesudas a rallying point is his universal appeal as a singer and spiritual being who has proved over five decades of his singing career that music can bind religions together.

In fact, Yesudas began his singing career with a prayer song by the late social reformer Sree Narayana Guru warning people against division and hatred in the name of religion, caste and creed.  The singer recites this whenever he gets a chance to address the public. Recently, the nation honored him with the Padma Vibhushan award, the second-highest civilian honor.

The procedure for non-Hindus gaining temple entry is simple. They have to declare to temple authorities that they believe in Hindusim, its customs and rituals. For instance, they have to take a bath before entering the temple, abide by a simple dress code and keep their footwear outside the sanctum of the temple.

In Yesudas’ case, the decision to grant him permission to enter the temple was unanimous as the singer’s belief in Hinduism is well known, said temple executive officer V Ratheesan.

When asked about his proposed visit to Padmanabhaswamy temple, Yesudas said he was not in a great hurry. On Saturday, Vijayadashami Day, he was busy at his music school for children. On Sunday, he held a classical music concert in Thiruvananthapuram. So Yesudas’ temple visit may take place in the coming days.

“At 77, Yesu sings classical music for hours because of God’s blessings and his dedication to music. I wish all temples open their doors to this musical genius,” said E. Bhargavi, a retired teacher who has been following his career for decades.

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