Skip to content


Anna Rangachariar and ors. Vs. V. Parthasarathy Iyengar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1927Mad131
AppellantAnna Rangachariar and ors.
RespondentV. Parthasarathy Iyengar and ors.
Cases Referred and Krishnasami Tatacharyar v. Krishnamacharyar
Excerpt:
.....where it is the right to perform a religious service. 24. as regards the maintainability of the suit, i think the suit is clearly maintainable as the plaintiffs' if their case is true, are entitled to perform certain duties with reference to the worship and to receive certain emoluments. 25. it is difficult to see how the suit is bad for misjoinder of parties and causes of action as the right is claimed as the joint right of all the thengalai sri vaishnavas of triplicane. 31. there will be a decree declaring that the right to perform the adhyapakam and vedaparayanam service vests in the thengalai sri vaishnava brahman residents of triplicane and that the sevas are performed and emoluments enjoyed as stated by the above. as regards costs, as neither party has succeeded entirely and has..........and allowed him to receive the emoluments, that as regards the receipt of first honours of the temple the adhyapakas used to put forward an elderly person who was to receive the honours. he states that the vazhi thirunamams, the recitation of which the defendants nos. 1 and 2 objected, are mere hymns relating to the lives of the saints and acharyas and that it is customary to recite them.5. one ramanujachari who was made a supplemental defendant at his request filed a written statement disputing the plaintiffs' claim.6. the following issues were settled:1. are the services of adhyapakam, arulpadu puranam, vedaparayanam and kottiyam, offices in the plaint temple and if so, are the plaintiffs entitled to the same?2. are all or any of the honours and emoluments mentioned in the plaint.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Kumaraswami Sastri, J.

1. This is a suit filed by the plaintiffs for themselves and on behalf of the Thengalai Vaishnava Brahmans, residents in Triplicane, for a declaration that they are entitled to the office of Adhyapakam, Vedaparayanam, Arulipadu, Puranam and the Kattuyam in the temple of Sri Parthasarathiswami at Triplicane, that the trustees have no right to appoint anybody else to the said offices, that as such mirasidars they are entitled to the honours and emoluments set out in schedule A to the plaints, for an injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants from interfering with their enjoyment of the said offices and the receipt of the emoluments, for damages and costs.

2. The case for the plaintiffs is that from time immemorial, the Thengalai Sri Vaishnava residents of Triplicane have been interested in and have had the rights of control over the temple, that they have been entitled to the mirasi offices set out in the plaint and the receipt of perquisites, that, as a matter of convenience, a list from among those persons who are willing and duly qualified to discharge the duties of the said offices was occasionally kept in the temple for the information of the temple staff in connexion with the distribution of Prasadams and other emoluments, that on special occasions respectable orthodox Brahmans from other places were allowed to take part in the Goshti and share in its perquisites with the consent of the Sthalathars, that Defendants Nos. 1 and 2 have for some time past been wrongfully acting contrary to mamool and in violation of the ancient and established rights of the plaintiffs, that disputes have arisen between the Sthalathars and the trustees and in consequence thereof Defendants Nos. 1 and 2 have infringed on the plaintiffs' rights and withheld the emoluments, that Defendants Nos. 1 and 2 have set up that the recitation of Vazhi Thirunamams of Alwars and Acharyas, the recital of which has been going on for several years and which is customary, is contrary to custom and threatened to suspend and dismiss the Adyapakas who recite those Vazhi Thirunamams, that there have been disputes and differences owing to the wrongful conduct of the trustees set out in the plaint and that it is necessary that there should be a decree establishing the plaintiffs' rights.

3. Defendants Nos. 1 and 2 who have made common cause in the suit deny the plaintiffs' rights and state that there is no such miras as is claimed in the plaint and that the trustees have the right to appoint and dismiss Adhyapakas. They state that the recital of special Vazhi Thirunamam is contrary to the established practice, and that they were justified in forbidding the recital and in dismissing such of the Adhyapakas as disobeyed the order. Their case is that Adhyapakas are mere temple servants appointed by the trustees and liable to be dismissed by them. They raise various legal defences as to the non-maintaina-bility of the suit owing to want of leave to sue under Order 1, B. 8, Civil P. C., they plead limitation as the trustees and their predecessors in office have been exercising the rights of appointment and dismissal of and the control over the Adhyapakas for over 30 years. They state that the suit is bad as there is no prayer for the setting aside of the dismissal of Plaintiffs Nos. 1 and 2, that the suit is bad for misjoinder of parties and causes of action, that the suit is not cognizable by a civil Court in so far as the plaintiffs want to interfere with the ceremonials of the temple regarding the recital of Vazhi Thirunamam and that the claim of the plaintiffs to control the duties and functions of the trustees is res judicata, on account of the decree in C.S. No. 161 of 1891 and C. S. No. 111 of 1918.

4. The 3rd defendant filed a written statement practically admitting the plaintiffs' claim to the office of Adhyapaka and the custom as regards the recital of Vazhi Thirunamam. As regards the office of Adhyapaka he states that he has on several occasions seen the permanent Thengalai Sri Vaishnava residents of Triplicane taking part as a body in the services referred to in the plaint and receiving emoluments, that in the matter of ritual and the conduct of worship and the fixing of dates for the periodical festivals, the trustees have been guided by the opinion of the permanent Thengalai Sri Vaishnava residents of Triplicane learned in Sastras and acquainted with the mamool of the temple and that not only in Triplicane but also in most of the Sri Vaishnava temples, the Thengalai Sthalathars are the mirasi Adhyapakas. He states that whenever any Thengalai Sri Vaishnava resident of Triplicane who is competent to do the service intimated to the trustees of his willingness to the same, the trustees recognized his claim to perform the service and allowed him to receive the emoluments, that as regards the receipt of first honours of the temple the Adhyapakas used to put forward an elderly person who was to receive the honours. He states that the Vazhi Thirunamams, the recitation of which the Defendants Nos. 1 and 2 objected, are mere hymns relating to the lives of the saints and Acharyas and that it is customary to recite them.

5. One Ramanujachari who was made a supplemental defendant at his request filed a written statement disputing the plaintiffs' claim.

6. The following issues were settled:

1. Are the services of Adhyapakam, Arulpadu Puranam, Vedaparayanam and Kottiyam, offices in the plaint temple and if so, are the plaintiffs entitled to the same?

2. Are all or any of the honours and emoluments mentioned in the plaint attached to any such offices or are they mere remuneration for services rendered?

3. Is the claim of the plaintiffs barred by limitation for the reasons stated in para. 3 of the 2nd defendant's written statement?

4. Are the plaintiffs entitled to the control of all the Vaidika Vicharana of the plaint temple, if so, is the said claim barred by res judicata by reason of the decree in C. S. Nos. 161 of 1891 and 111 of 1918.

5. Is the present suit not maintainable for the reason stated in paras. 1 and 12 of the written statement of the 1st defendant and paras. 8 and 12 of the 2nd defendants written statement?

6. Are the plaintiffs entitled to any damages and if so, what amount.

7. Is the suit bad for misjoinder of parties and causes of action?

8. Is the suit cognizable by a civil Court?

7. So far as the services mentioned in the plaint and covered by issue No. 1 are concerned, it is not disputed that these services have to be rendered in the course of the worship to the god. It is also not disputed that those who take part in the various rituals connected with the services above mentioned are entitled to certain emoluments and the honour of receiving the first Theertham and Shadogopam and other honours. The only dispute between the parties is that whereas the plaintiffs state that the right to perform the sacred duties and to receive the emoluments connected therewith is vested in the Sri Vaishnava Thengalai residents of Triplicane the case for the 1st and 2nd defendants is the trustees are the persons to decide as to who should perform these services and receive the emoluments and honours and this is the main question in the suit.

8. So far as the offices of Adyapakam, Arulpadu, Vedaparayanam and Kottiyam are concerned, it is customary in all Sri Vaishnava temples both at the time of the daily worship to the god and at the time when the god is taken in procession for the chanting by Brahmans of the Thiruvoi Mozhi and the Vedas. As regards Vazhi Thirunamam it is merely the recitals of benediction addressed to the god or a particular Saint or Alwar. It is admitted in this case that so far as Manavala Mahamuni is concerned his Vazhi Thirunamam is 'Manavala mamuniye irnum oru nutrandu irum' and that this is recited every day when pooja is performed. The dispute is as regards the recital of Vazhi Thirunamam for other Acharyas and saints of the Sri Vaishnava Thengalai cult. The case for the plaintiffs is that on the birthdays of these particular saints after the Vazhi Thirunamam of Manavala Mahamuni is ricited, the Vazhi Thirunamam appropriate to the saints in question is also recited whereas the defendants deny any such pratice. (Here the judgment discussed the oral and documentary evidance and proceeded). So far as the documentary evidence is concerned, I do not think that the trustees have made out any right of appointment and the probabilities are all against any such right.

9. As I said before, the right to recite Vedas and Prabandam at the daily worship to the god is a right which has always been claimed as a valuable right by the Brahman residents of the locality, and it is hardly likely that these learned Brahmans who even set up the right of control over the temple as appears from the petitions sent up between 1800 and 1835 or 1836 would have agreed to be the servants of the Dharmakarthas who in several cases were non-Brahmans and would have consented to being appointed and removed at their will. In fact no such power has been shown to have been exercised or admitted. The trustees did not venture to assert any right of dismissal till we come to the disputes about the recital of Vazhi Thirunamam and which led to the present suit. I find that the Dharmakarthas have no power to appoint or dismiss the Adhyapakas. I think the evidence before me establishes that though at one time all the Thengalai Brahman residents of Triplicane formed the Goshti or the congregation and recited Vedas and Prabandam at the daily worship and during festival occasions, the practice gradually grew up of a certain number being selected by the elderly Brahmans of Triplicane to attend the daily worship and do the necessary recitation, and that as early as the year 1800, one-fourth Thaligai which was fixed by the Board of Revenue was given to the persons who officiated as Adhyapakamdars.

10. As is usual in cases of customary rights, there were no fixed rules framed at any meeting of the Goshti but there was a certain well-recognized procedure which was followed and which no body questioned. The elderly and learned persons determined who were to be the Adhyapakas who had to attend the worship and receive the emoluments and their word was not questioned by the general body of Adhyapakas. So far as the Dharmakarthas were concerned when things were normal, it mattered little to them, so long as the service was conducted and so long as one-fourth share had to be given to the Adhyapakas who performed the service, who or how many of the Goshti came in and received the emoluments. It is only quite recently after disputes arose as regards Vazhi Thirunamam being recited that the trustees claimed the right of appointment and dismissal of the Adhyapakas.

11. It has been argued that there can be no rights in an indefinite body of inhabitants and that no decree can be passed in their favour and numerous authorities have been cited which relate to the rights of the public and to the definition of the term 'office.' I think the difficulty in cases of this kind where customary rights are involved is that you cannot apply all the rules which relate to office in the strict sense of the term. Both sides admit that the service of reciting Prabandams and Vedas is a necessary ingredient in the worship at the temple and that it has to be performed by a fluctuating body of persons.

12. It is also admitted that no fixed number of persons have to attend or that there is anything in the Sastras which fixes the number that should invariably attend. In this view of the case it is unnecessary to consider whether the Adhyapakas have a miras in the strict sense of the term. They do not claim any hereditary rights nor do they claim to be servants of the temple like the Archakas. The main question, therefore, is: are these Adhyapakas appointed by the trustees and are liable to removal by them? The evidence to my mind shows clearly that the Adhyapakas are not appointed by the trustees. It is argued that the right to perform Adhyapakam service cannot vest in an indefinite body of persons and numerous authorities have been referred to.

13. The question of Adhyapakam service has been considered by this Court in Krishnasami Tatacharyar v. Krishnamacharyar [1882] 5 Mad. 313 Krishnama v. Krishnasami [1878] 2 Mad. 62 and Narasimma Chariar v. Sri Kristna Tata Chariar 6 M. H. C. 449. In Narasimma Chariar's case (3) the plaintiffs who were members of the Thengalai sect of Brahmans sued the Dharmakarthas of the Conjeevaram temple in respect of the emoluments of the Adhyapakam service and the defendants denied their right. It was contended that the suit was not cognizable by the civil Court. The District Judge held that the suit was not of a civil nature as it involved questions of ritual. The High Court held that the suit was cognizable by a civil Court and observed:

If to determine the right to such pecuniary benefit it becomes necessary to determine incidentally the right to perform certain religious: services we know of no principles which would exonerate the Court from considering and determining the point

14. and reversed the decree of the District Judge. This decision was approved by their Lordships of the Privy Council in Krishnama v. Kristnasami [1878] 2 Mad. 62 which was a suit filed by the Thengala is who claimed exclusively the Adhyapakam right and the emoluments and the defendants who were the Dharmakarthas denied it. The High Court confirming the decision of the District Judge dismissed the suit as disclosing no cause of action. On appeal their Lordships of the Privy Council reversed the decision of the High Court and remanded the suit. The case went back and the District Judge while rejecting certain claims held that the Adhyapaka miras to which appertained the exclusive right to pronounce Thodakam and the Mantram and to chant the Prabandam was the common property of all the members of the Thengalai sect of Conjeevaram. On appeal the High Court in Krishnasami Tatacharyar v. Krishnama Charyar [1882] 5 Mad. 313 upheld the view of the District Judge as to the rights of the Thengala on the question,. The learned Judges dealt fully with the previous litigation as to this right and gave a declaration that the Adhyapaka miras with the exception of the Thodakam is the exclusive right of the Thengala and that it appertains to all the members of that sect residing at Conjeevaram.

15. Reference has been made by Mr. Narasimhachari to Srinivasa Thathachariar v. Srinivasa Aiyangar [1899] 9 M. L. J. 355 where Subramania Iyer and O. Farwell, JJ., were of opinion that the members of an illdefined community such as the Vaishnavas cannot all be the holders of the Adhyapakam office. No reference, however, was made in the judgment to the cases reported as Narasimma Chariar v. Sri Kristna Tata Chariar 6 M. H. C. 449 and Krishnama v. Krishnasami [1878] 2 Mad. 62 and Krishnasami Tatacharyar v. Krishnamma Charyar [1882] 5 Mad. 313 which clearly establish such a right in the body of Thengalai Vaishnavas and I find it difficult to follow this decision which is in direct conflict with the cases referred to above. Numerous cases have been referred to by Mr. Narasimhachari which deal with the question as to whether a suit would lie for the office and the emoluments claimed. It is not easy to reconcile all the decisions but it seems to me unnecessary to go into them as the question I have to decide in this case is only whether a suit by the Thengalai Vaishnava Brahman residents of Triplicane claiming the rights of Adhyapakam is one which Courts can entertain. Each case depends more upon the facts and on the usage and it is fruitless to treat customary rights which have grown up and which are binding on institutions as if they were rights created by contract involving mutual rights and obligations.

16. So far as Adhyapakam service is concerned, the claim is that the Thengalai Vaishnava Brahman residents who have from time immemorial been reciting the Prabandam and Vedas are entitled to do so without being appointed or removed by the Dharmakartha. The fact that the trustees cannot compel them to recite is no ground for holding that they have not got the right which they claim. It is alleged that the trustees would be without any remedy if the Adhyapakas would not perform their duty. It is enough to point out that this has never occurred and so long as the emoluments of onefourth Thaligai and other honours and perquisites are attached to the service it will continue to be performed. As regards the large number of persons that may now claim the right, this is obviously no ground for refusing the rights acquired. In its inception there is nothing unreasonable in the claim. I may in this connexion refer to the observations of Farwell, J., in Mercer v. Denne [1904] 2 Ch. 534:

Then it is said that it (custom) is unreasonable, because the sea may recede for a mile or more, as at Sandwhich, and it is impossible to suppose that any such extent of ground could ever have been intended to be appropriated to such a custom. It is enough for me to say that as the event has not happened for upwards of 700 years I cannot see the unreasonableness. The period for ascertaining whether a custom is reasonable or not is its inception.

17. In the present case as Manavala Mahamuni who is the author of the Prabandam lived about the 13th or 14th century and as Prabandam must have been recited in this temple almost from its foundation there is nothing unreasonable in the origin of the claim by the few Brahman residents near the locality to recite the sacred verses before the deity at the time of the pooja.

18. It is argued by Mr. Narasimhachari that in Krishnasami Tatacharyar's case (1) the right was claimed by 93 families only. The concluding portion of the judgment in Krishnasami Tatacharyar's case (1) as well as the facts of the previous litigation show that it was all the residents who sued and that the mention of 93 families was made as all the Thengala who claimed the right were descendants of the 93 families. The declaration given in Krishnasami Tatacharyar's case (1) is clearly in favour of all the Thengalai residents of Conjeevaram. Even if it was only 93 families who constituted the persons who had the right to perform the Adhyapakam service, this wonld not make much difference. 93 families about 50 years ago would in the ordinary course go on expanding and would be as indefinite as the Thengalai residents of Triplicane and I see very little to support the arguments of Mr. Narasimhachari that there could be no right in such an indefinite body of persons. Customary rights in an indefinite body of persons in India have been recognized in numerous cases and I can find no case which says that there can be no right which could vest in a community because of the indefiniteness.

19. It is also argued that if the Dharmakarthas have no right of removal or control, it is difficult to hold that there could be any office as there should be rights and duties. This is an objection that cannot apply to cases like the present where it is the right to perform a religious service. What the consequence would be if none of the persons went to the temple and performed the Adhyapakam service need not be considered in the present case as the evidence is that no such contingency ever arose. It may be that if the Adhyapaka Goshti does not make proper arrangements for the recital of Prabandam and Vedas at the worship there may be power in the trustees to make necessary arrangements. But so far as the evidence in this case is concerned I do not think that there will be any occasion for the exercise of any such right by the trustees, because one-fourth Thaligai is the emolument and people will always be found to recite Prabandam and Vedas.

20. It is argued that the boundaries of Triplicane are indefinite. So far as this temple is concerned, every scheme has defined the boundaries for the purpose of the scheme and plaintiffs state that such boundaries may be taken as boundaries to determine the residential qualifications of the Adhyapakas. I see nothing which prevents the powers of such limits especially for several years past the boundaries of Triplicane for the purpose of this temple have been fixed. As regards honours, I think the evidence establishes that the honours are given to the person whom the congregation present and reciting the Vedas and Prabandam nominates. He receives the first Theertham and the Prasadam and he distributes the Prasadam to the persons who are present and recite Prabandam and Vedas. So far as the right to commence proceeding is concerned, it vests in the person whom such congragation puts forward as the leader. He says the Thodakkam. As regards Puranam reading. I do not think the plaintiffs have proved that the right to appoint persons to read Puranam vests in the Goshti. The temple accounts and the evidence of the defendants' witnesses show that it was the trustees who appointed the Puranam readers and paid them.

21. As regards the recital of Vazhi Thirunamam, the evidence I have already referred to shows that Vazhi Thirunamam was being recited for several years without any objection by the trustees. It is not shown by any evidence or by reference to any books or Sastras that there is anything objectionable in the recital of the Vazhi Thirunamam of other Alwars and Acharyas on their Thirunakshatram days and if there could be no objection it is difficult to see why the trustees in 1922 objected. I cannot help thinking that in the matter of reciting Vazhi Thirunamam the trustees were from the beginning in the wrong and that the attempts to enforce their views by dismissing Adhyapakas and instituting a number of fruitless criminal prosecutions is wholly uncalled for.

22. As regards the claim to the control of all the Vaidika Vicharana of the temple, I do not think there is evidence sufficient to show that the Goshti or the general body of worshippers had any control of all the Vaidika Vicharana of the temple. Probably they were consulted by the trustees when questions arose as to when the Uthsawams were to be celebrated or any question of ritual arose but that would not give them a right of control.

23. As regards the legal pleas raised, I find it difficult to see how the plaintiffs' claim can be barred by limitation as the evidence, in my opinion, shows that the trustees never exercised the rights of appointment and dismissal for the statutory period.

24. As regards the maintainability of the suit, I think the suit is clearly maintainable as the plaintiffs' if their case is true, are entitled to perform certain duties with reference to the worship and to receive certain emoluments. The decisions in Krishnama v. Kristnasami [1878] 2 Mad. 62 and Krishnasami Tatacharyar v. Krishnamacharyar [1882] 5 Mad. 313 relating to a similar office are clear.

25. It is difficult to see how the suit is bad for misjoinder of parties and causes of action as the right is claimed as the joint right of all the Thengalai Sri Vaishnavas of Triplicane.

26. I find on the evidence that the right to perform the Adhyapakam and Veda Parayanam services has always vested from time immemorial in the Thengalai Sri Vaishnava residents of Triplicane, that for the past several years the custom has been for the Sri Vaishnava residents, who know at least 2000 of the 4000 verses of Thiruvaimoshi and who know portions of the Vedas necessary for being chanted at the service of the idol and in processions, to form the Goshti who are entitled to officiate both at the daily pooja and in processions and Uthasvams and to receive the Thaligai appropriated for the Adhyapakam service, that such a body of persons was a fluctuating body, that to make up the requisite number admissions were made by the elderly persons of the Goshti when necessity arose, that the trustees have no right either of appointment or dismissal, that the Prasadams were to be given to the persons whom the Goshti actually officiating and reciting the Prabandam put forward as the elder or leader and that he had the right to begin the service and receive the Theertham first.

27. As regards the emoluments claimed in the schedule to the plaint, I am of opinion that the plaintiffs have not proved that they are entitled to any more emoluments than those admitted in the written statement and the evidence of the Amin.

28. As regards residence, the evidence is that at least six months' residence was required together with the actual performance of service during that period; but that unless the elders of the Goshti admitted such a person he was not entitled to receive the quarter Thaligai set apart for the Adhyapakas or in other words while the right to recite Prabandam and the Vedas was a right which could be exercised by any Vaishnava inhabitant of Triplicane, the quarter Thaligai and the other emoluments which were reserved for the Adhyapakas were distributed among the select body which I have referred to who knew the Prabandam and the Vedas at least to the extent above indicated and who undertook to officiate at the daily service and that in ordinary times 2 to 10 persons would attend and recite and on occasions of importance the number was larger.

29. As regards what is to be the meaning of the term 'Triplicane' it was always taken to include the four main streets round the temple and such boundaries as were fixed by the schemes framed from time to time for the purpose of the temple.

30. It seems to me to be desirable that the right which vests in the Thengalai Vaishnava Brahmans should be incorporated in a scheme which would give judicial sanction to the present custom prevailing and I am sure that the scheme which will be framed in C. S. No. 527 of 1924 would make adequate provision for the performance and continuance of the Adhyapakam service and prevent the unseemly disputes which have been going on till now between the Adhayapakas and the trustees.

31. There will be a decree declaring that the right to perform the Adhyapakam and Vedaparayanam service vests in the Thengalai Sri Vaishnava Brahman residents of Triplicane and that the sevas are performed and emoluments enjoyed as stated by the above. The Adhyapakas actually performing the sevas are at each service entitled to the customary honours and emoluments and that the Dharmakarthas have no right to appoint or dismiss the Adhyapakas or refuse to give the emoluments which are customary to the persons whom the Adhyapakas want the emoluments to be given. As regards costs, as neither party has succeeded entirely and has failed on important questions I direct that each party do bear its own costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //