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State in India Seeks Nude Worship Ban

March 5, 2003

BANGALORE, India (AP) _ Every year, tens of thousands of women gather at a Hindu temple in southern India and worship in the nude, despite efforts to stop them.

For 17 years, authorities and social reformers have tried to prevent the devotees from disrobing as they bathe in the Bhadra River and roll around the temple of the Hindu goddess Renukamba. And on Wednesday, officials said they have once again banned nudity during the temple fair from March 9-11 in the village of Chandragutti in Karnataka state.

Many of the devotees are young women who are performing an initiation rite to enter prostitution, while others are fulfilling vows they have made to the goddess.

Tushar Girinath, the deputy commissioner for the Shimoga district, said devotees can perform all the rituals, but they must remain clothed.

He has also ordered all liquor shops within a three-mile radius of the temple closed during the fair to keep people from becoming unruly.

In 1986, worshippers became angry at attempts to stop them. They stripped the police, journalists and the social activists and forced them to parade naked.