Trustee steps down from role at temple after sari saga

A TEMPLE trustee has been asked to step down for allegedly ‘stealing’ a sari donated by a devotee. Picture: Pexels

A TEMPLE trustee has been asked to step down for allegedly ‘stealing’ a sari donated by a devotee. Picture: Pexels

Published Apr 29, 2024


A TEMPLE trustee has been asked to step down for allegedly ‘stealing’ a sari donated by a devotee.

The 69-year-old woman who was a volunteer at the Shree Gengayammen Temple, in Parlock, for 45 years, was also threatened with criminal charges.

The woman who denied stealing the sari, believed the allegation was ”just an attempt to force me out of my position”.

Her attorney has instructed the temple's chairperson, Dr Jayandran Mudaly, to desist from “defaming, threatening or publishing” that she had “stolen” from the temple.

The trustee told the POST she had been lambasted on a temple communication group, which included hundreds of people from her community and temple – for the alleged theft.

She claimed that the situation was ‘blown out of proportion’ due to ‘internal politics’.

The devotee who had donated the sari at the temple's Mariammen prayer, last year, spotted the trustee wearing the sari, on March 8 , at the Shivarathri celebrations. The matter was briefly addressed at a subsequent temple meeting on March 20.

Mudaly then issued a letter to the trustee, requesting her to step down as a trustee, and return any temple property she had in her possession, including the property keys.

In the letter, the woman was also asked to remove herself from the handling monies or finances related to the temple.

Mudaly claimed in the letter that the trustee had told him that saris donated to the temple were taken in exchange for money that was placed into the temple’s donation box. He said she described this as a “common practice”.

Mudaly said he was unaware of such a practice and distanced himself from any actions ‘where trustees help themselves to temple property’.

The letter further stated that there would be an investigation and internal disciplinary, and the matter could result in criminal charges being laid against the trustee.

The South African Hindu Maha Sabha (SAHMS) was approached by the temple to mediate after Mudaly issued the letter to the trustee.

President of the SAHMS, Ashwin Trikamjee, said the mediation effort was unsuccessful, “There was a lack of cooperation from the existing officials.”

The trustee claimed that it had been the case for years, “where once the sari had been adorned by a deity or draped over the puthu a few times, we wash it and have an option to make a donation and take the sari. This sari is considered blessed”.

Mudaly declined to comment.

Seelan Achary, chairperson of the Shri Mariammen Temple, in Mount Edgecombe, said different temples had different policies around the donated items.

“Temples end up with an abundance of saris. We donate the saris to child welfare, senior citizens/groups, schools and to the public during Diwali and Mother’s Day,” he said.

“At no point are the members allowed to sell the saris,” he added.

He said the temple had sent saris to Sri Lanka after the last natural disasters.

“Saris are placed before the Mother’s and removed after a while. Members or devotees do not have the option to take the blessed sari and offer a donation in return. All sari's are donated free of any charge,” Achary added.

Kumaran Moodley, a Guru at the Isipingo Shri Mariammen Temple, said the temple received about 20 saris a month but during festivals it increased to about 200 to 300 saris a day.

“All our saris are donated to the poor. We drape the murthis once a week. Our devotees can be rest assured that the sari’s they have donated are being adorned on the murthis,” he said.