Indian Hindus seek ban for monk who went abroad

BANGALORE, India (Reuters) - Conservative Hindu leaders in southern India are seeking to prevent a monk from heading one of the country’s most popular temples saying he had become “impure” because he had traveled overseas.

The debate has divided Brahmins, or the priestly class, in the pilgrim town of Udipi, with those opposed to the monk seeking a local court to stall his anointment as the head of a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.

Sugunendra Teertha, the monk, had traveled to the United States and Europe on, what he says, was a tour to propagate Hinduism.

But orthodox community leaders say he had committed “sagarollanghana”, the Sanskrit term for crossing the seas, an act that they said defied a centuries-old tradition and left him impure.

Although hardly practiced now, some conservative Hindu religious orders frown upon overseas travel because they claim religious scriptures make “crossing the seas” a sin.

Even Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement, was excommunicated by conservative Hindu members of his Bania trading caste when he went to Britain to study law.

One of Teertha’s main opponents, Vishweshwara Teertha, says the monk should not even be allowed to enter the temple’s sanctum sanctorum let alone head it.

But Sugunendra Teertha is defending himself. “I have done no wrong,” he said in Udipi, about 350 km (220 miles) west of Bangalore, India’s IT capital. “Every part of the world is pure.”

Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee