1. This appeal arises out of the interminable and deplorable disputes between the Thengalai and Vadagalai sects of Vaishnava Brahmins worshipping in the Sri Varadarajaswami Temple at Conjeevaram. The disputes have a history going-back for at least two centuries. Fortunately, we can start with the decision of this Court in Tatacharyar v. Krishnamacharyar I.L.R.(1882) 5 Mad. 313 where the learned Judges set forth the ancient history of this dispute, described the Adyapakam service to which it relates and decided the main basis upon which this service shall be conducted. The learned judges pointed out that the service consisted originally of the Thodakkam or the invocation to prayer, followed by the Mantram in praise of the Guru, after which comes the main part of the service consisting of the recitation of the Prabandams in the Tamil language. The learned Judges observed that the Thodakkam office had been by consent entrusted to a particular family of Vadagalais, that no one was at that time performing the service and that if it be true that the family to which this service was entrusted had become extinct, the united sects should elect a common representative to the office of Thodakkadar, which office, it was held, had become severed from the main Adyapakam services, so that any right of the Thengalais as mirasdars to hold that office had been lost. Except the Thodakkam office it was declared that the Adyapakam miras belonged exclusively to the Thengalais residing at Conjeevaram who were entitled to discharge the ditties of the office both inside the temple and in processions outside the temple, the Vadagalais being restrained from interfering with the Thengalais in the recital of the Mantram and Prabandams other wise than as ordinary worshippers. This judgment delivered in 1882 was followed by a litigation which started in O.S. No. 10 of 1906 on the file of the District Court of Chingleput. In that suit the Thengalais prayed for a declaration that the Vadagalais had no right to recite any Mantram, Prabandam or Vazhi Thirunamam, in other words, to take part; in the Adyapakam service, except as ordinary worshippers. They asked for a declaration that the right of the Vadagalais as worshippers was only to recite the same Mantram, Prabandam and Vazhi Thirunamam as the Thengalais and that in so doing they should station themselves behind the Thengalais as part of the assembly of the Thengalai mirasdars. They also prayed for the consequential injunction. It has to be noted that the hymn called Vazhi Thirunamam which is introduced into this plaint was not expressly covered by the judgment in Tatacharyar v. Krishnamacharyar I.L.R.(1882) 5 Mad. 313. Vazhi Thirunamam is apparently a supplemental hymn sung at the conclusion of the Prabandams and it is not sung in a form common to the two sects as the Prabandams are, One of the questions in issue in the 1906 suit was:
What is the proper Patram and appropriate Vazhi Thirunamam to be used at the time of the Adyapakam service and whether the plaintiffs had the right to recite Vazhi Thirunamam.
2. The learned District Judge observes in paragraph 7 that the Adyapakam service consists mainly in the recitation of the Prabandam preceded by the recitation of the Mantram or hymn, and followed by the recitation of a stanza in honour of the saint who was invoked by the hymn chanted at the beginning. That is to say it is recognised that the Vazhi Thirunamam is the appropriate conclusion of the Adyapakam service and that the stanza recited must be in honour of the saint invoked in the Mantram which begins the service. In dealing with the issues the learned District Judge lumps together various issues relating to the precise form of the service and the rights of the parties and holds that the Thengalais are entitled to protection in the conduct of their office at the actual times of service during the Puja and in processions, that the Vadagalais as ordinary worshippers may, if they choose, join the Thengalais in the service of Adyapakam and if they do so, they must recite the same Mantram and Prabandam. He observes:
The plaintiffs ask that it should be declared that the Vadagalais have no right to recite any Mantram or Prabandam or Vazhi Thirunamam, in other words, to take part in the Adyapakam service except as ordinary worshippers. The rights of the defendants were declared in Tatacharyar v. Krishnamacharyar I.L.R.(1882) 5 Mad. 313 and the plaintiffs have already got a declaration to this effect.
3. Reading these portions of the judgment together, it seems to me that the only possible conclusion is that the learned District Judge decided that the whole of the Adyapakam service was to be performed by the Thengalai mirasdars, that the Vazhi Thirunamam was treated as part of the Adyapakam service and that from the omission to refer to it specifically in the decree which resulted it cannot be inferred that the District Judge negatived the claim of the Thengalai mirasdars to recite the Vazhi Thirunamam as part of the Adyapakam service.
4. This judgment of the District Judge, Chingleput, was considered in appeal. The appellate judgment is reported in Thirnvengadachariar v. Krishnaswami Thathachariar (1915) M.W.N. 281. The High Court substantially confirmed the District Judge's decree and held that only one Mantram may be recited, namely, that of the Thengalai mirasdars, that the recital of a different Mantram or Prabandam during any ceremonial worship or by any ghoshti would be an interference with the duties of the office and that any interference in the Puja from its commencement with the ringing of the bells to its close with the distribution of Theertham and Prasadam is a violation of the plaintiff's mirasi rights. There is no specific reference in the judgment to the Vazhi Thirunamam and the decree as modified by the High Court runs as follows:
That it is only the Thengalai Mantram of Sri Sailesa Daya Patram that may be recited within the temple during any ceremonial worship or by any Ghoshti and that Vadagalais are only entitled to join the Thengalai Adyapakam Ghoshti as worshippers by reciting the same portion of the Prabandam that is being recited by the Adyapaka mirasdars; that the defendants the Vadagalais be restrained from reciting their own mantrams and Prabandams during the Puja period, that is, from the commencement of the Puja to the close thereof by the distribution of the Thirtham and Prasadam, etc.
5. This decree though it does not in so many words prescribe the singing of the Thengalai Vazhi Thirunamam by the mirasdars does very clearly prescribe the conduct of the whole Adyapakam service right up to its termination by those mirasdars. It restrains the Vadagalais from singing their own sectarian hymns and chants or taking any part except by joining the Ghoshti as worshippers and reciting the Prabandams recited by the mirasdars.
6. Having in view the contentions of the parties and the findings of the District Judge and the wording of the decree, I have no doubt that the intention of the learned Judges was to authorise the mirasdars to append to the service its customary conclusion in the form approved by the sect to which they belonged, whose cult was to govern the service. After this decree the Vadagalais appeared to have tried on the strength of the declaration of their right to 'join' the Ghoshti to establish a right to stand in the front rows of the Ghoshti or congregation amongst the actual mirasdars responsible for the service. This claim was resisted and there followed a series of temporary magisterial orders passed in the interests of peace, whereby the Vadagalai worshippers were prevented from standing in the two front rows of the Ghoshti in services or processions. One of the objects of the present litigation is to establish that the Vadagalais have the right to stand where they like in the Ghoshti during the services in the temple and in processions through the streets.
7. The plaint prays for a confused collection of. reliefs. Firstly, it asks for a mandatory injunction asking for the appointment from time to time of the Thodakkadar and for that purpose framing the necessary rules. This relief does not state upon whom the injunction is to operate. The defendants include not only the representatives of the Thengalai mirasdars, but also the Vadagalai trustees of the temple and representatives of the Thathachariar family in whom the Thodakkam office is said once upon a time to have vested. The prayer for framing the necessary rules carefully avoids the use of the word 'scheme', but in effect this prayer is nothing more than a prayer for framing a scheme for the reconstitution of an obsolete temple office. To my mind such a prayer is bad for want of the Advocate-General's fiat under Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code.
8. The second prayer is for a decree
determining and declaring the occasion, time and place, the manner and the conditions relating to the performance of the Adyapakam service by both the Thengalai mirasdars and the Vadagalais and granting a permanent injunction restraining the Thengalais from interfering with the exercise by the plaintiffs of their rights relating to the Adyapakam services by joining with the Thengalais equally in all rows of the Ghoshti both inside and outside the temple either by force or physical exclusion or by reciting texts other than those detailed in the Schedules A and B hereunder or by any other Act, word or deed or in any other manner whatsoever.
9. This strange conglomeration of reliefs could only be made completely effective by the drafting of a most elaborate manual of ritual with detailed rubrics and forms of prayer. I will discuss later my reasons for holding that no civil suit lies for the reliefs prayed for under this head.
10. Thirdly, the Vadagalai plaintiffs pray for a decree directing the defendants 1 to 4 to pay the plaintiffs individually or as representing the entire Vadagalai community a sum of Rs. 50 as and by way of damages. This prayer is dearly nothing more than an attempt to give the colour of a civil claim to the subject-matter of the suit which is in danger of being rejected as not being of a civil nature. No attempt has been made before me to argue that this claim for damages has any substance.
11. Before dealing with the prayer for detailed specifications of the ritual connected with the service and the rights of the worshippers, it is desirable to set forth briefly the principles which govern such suits and to consider whether a suit pertaining to ritual is one within the cognisance of the Civil Courts. It is, I think, unquestionable that the Civil Courts in India have no ecclesiastical jurisdiction and that they cannot decide questions of ritual except in so far as the decision of such questions is a necessary incident to the decision of civil rights. It is well established that a right to worship in a particular temple is a civil right and that a right to perform a religious office to which obligations and emoluments are attached is also a civil right. It has been recognised that the Court in adjudicating on a right of worship or a right to a religious office not infrequently is obliged to decide incidentally questions of ritual but it follows that the Court will not on a mere pretence' that a right to worship has been infringed, arrogate to itself a jurisdiction which it does not possess to prescribe forms of prayer, rights to religious precedence and questions of that nature.
12. The right of the plaintiffs appellants to take part in the Adyapakam worship has been not only recognised but defined. The right of the defendants mirasdars to conduct the Adyapakam service has also been established by judicial decisions. I am of opinion that the decrees of the High Court in the two cases quoted have settled, with such definition as is necessarily incidental to the establishment of the civil rights both of the mirasdars and of the ordinary worshippers, the ritual which it is the duty of the office-holders to observe. The plaintiffs ask this Court to go further than this and prescribe a complete set of rubrics which shall establish precisely the prayers to be used, the positions to be occupied by the various classes of worshippers, the time when the service is to begin and cease, and the precise manner in which it is to be conducted. In answer to this prayer I would only observe that the Civil Courts have neither the power nor the duty to attempt to draft a prayer-book for this temple.
13. I have already indicated that to my mind the plaintiffs are in error in assuming that the decision in the 1906 suit negatived the right of the Thcngalai mirasdars to recite their own Vazhi Thirunamam at the conclusion of the service. The right of the Vadagalais to join the service as worshippers has been established and is not contested. To recognise any right on their part to stand in the front row of the congregation would be not only to afford to them facilities for impeding the performance of the Adyapakam service by the mirasdars who have the right and the duty to lead it, but would in effect be to lay down as a matter of right a rule of precedence in worship which the plaintiffs are under no obligation to perform and in which it has been established that they have no more than a right to join as members of the general body of worshippers frequenting the temple. Owing to the factions between the parties, the Magistrates have found it necessary to issue temporary orders prohibiting the Vadagalais from stationing themselves in the positions where their presence was deemed likely to lead to a breach of the peace. Those orders are justified by the paramount necessity to prevent disturbances. A Civil Court cannot, in my opinion, be required to declare the right of the plaintiffs to stand in any particular row of the congregation. Obviously, the mirasdars who have the duty to lead the service must be protected in the exercise of their duty. It has been recognised that the plaintiffs have the right to join in the service as ordinary worshippers without interfering in the conduct of the service by the mirasdars. It is an obvious exaggeration to suggest that the recital of prayers which are customary but peculiar to the officiating sect amounts to an obstruction of the plaintiffs' right of worship. To assert that the plaintiffs have been debarred from worship by reason of their alleged exclusion from the first two rows is also to ignore the obvious facts. I am of opinion that there has been no interference with the civil right of the plaintiffs to worship in the temple, that the right of the mirasdars to conduct the Adyapakam service has been sufficiently delimited by the previous judgments and that the Civil Court has no jurisdiction to prescribe the modes of worship, prayers and religious precedence where no question of civil rights really arises.
14. In this view, it is unnecessary to go into the question of limitation on which the lower Courts found against the plaintiffs, but I would observe that it is difficult to hold that the exclusion of one or two individual worshippers from a particular position could have the effect of barring the right of the whole community to which those individuals belong to worship in that position if the right claimed were a civil right, such as could be established in the Civil Courts.
15. In the result, the appeal is dismissed with the costs of the contesting respondents 1 to 4.
16. Leave to appeal refused.