While the Sabarimala season progresses, misinformation concerning the deity and the practices associated with the temple continue. A WhatsApp video that claims to show a group of Ayyappa devotees singing praise to Allah , in a ‘temple in Kerala’, has gone viral on the messenger platform. The video alleges that as a consequence of Communist government’s policies in Kerala, that allow Muslims and Christians without knowledge of Vedas to become priests in Hindu Temples, praises are being sung to Islamic Gods in a temple premises in ‘Yedurappa’. Newschecker has found that the viral video makes misleading claims.
Newschecker received the video on our WhatsApp tipline (+91 9999499044) to be fact checked.
The video shows a man in black attire, typically donned by Ayyappa devotees, who worship the presiding deity of Kerala’s famous hill shrine Sabarimala, leading a large group of people, singing “La Ilaha Illallah, Vavar Swamy Mohammed Allah”. As the music fades, a narration begins in Hindi claims that the video showed Hindu devotees singing Islamic hymns inside the ‘Yedurappa’ temple in Kerala. The video further blames the Communist government in Kerala that has allowed Christian and Muslim individuals to become priests without any formal training in Vedas and rituals. It also refers to another alleged incident, where a priest was photographed drinking beer. The post further questions the ‘khilwad’ or interference with Hindu temples and blames Congress for this.
The viral forward comes in the wake of many similar posts and social media conversations asking governments in various states to free temples from government control. The supporters of the ‘Free Temple movement’ allege that donations and other assets belonging to the temple are misused by the state and do not end up being used for the welfare of the temple.
To verify the authenticity of the video, Newschecker began by conducting a keyword search of the words ‘Sabarimala’ and ‘Allah Song’ on YouTube to find several videos. We found the same video posted by a user ‘SBR news1’ in 2019. The caption of the video read “La ilaha illallah ayyappa swamula songs’.
The full song lasts over 5 minutes and the singer can be heard singing ‘La ilaha illallah, Vavar Mohammad Rasool Allah’. The singer can be further heard singing “it is the month of Kartika (when the devotees start penance ahead of their visit to Sabarimala). We have worn the rosary (the symbol of the devotees). Show mercy on us!” The singer is heard making multiple references to Vavar Swamy while the Ayyappa devotees join in.
Who is Vavar Swamy?
According to the Sabarimala website, “Vavar (pronounced Vaa-var), also known as Vavaruswami was a Muslim saint who became a devotee of Lord Ayyappa. There is a shrine dedicated to Vavaruswami at Sabarimala, as well as Vavaruswami’s mosque at Erumeli next to Erumeli Sastha temple. The devotion of Vavaruswami to Ayyappan and the significance that the mosque at Erumeli has during the Sabarimala pilgrim season highlights the communal harmony in Kerala.” The devotion of Vavaruswami also highlights that Ayyappa devotees come from all faiths and are treated equally, whether they are Muslims, Hindus or Christians.
Songs on Vavar Swamy not new
On looking up the keywords ‘La Ilaha Illallah Ayyappa songs’ on YouTube, Newschecker further found several other songs on Vavar swamy, by several Telugu artists over the years and bhajans with the Islamic chants are sung by Ayyappa devotees during their period of austerity and during the trek to the hill shrine.
Video Showing Ayyappa Devotees From Andhra Pradesh, Not Kerala
One of the videos that came up on the search results was titled ‘chalasani gardens ayyapaswami padi puja HD’ on November 2017. Padi pooja is a ceremony conducted before the Ayyappa devotees embark on the journey to visit Sabarimala. On further researching ‘Chalasani Gardens’ on Google, Newshecker found that it was a function/banquet hall in Andhra Pradesh’s Eluru, the district headquarters of West Godavari district. Further probe also revealed that there is no temple called ‘Yedurappa’ temple in Kerala.
Newschecker’s research found that the venue seen in the viral video and the images of Chalasani Gardens match.
Hence, the claim in the video that the songs were being sung by Ayyappa devotees in a Hindu temple in Kerala is not true. The incident takes place in a convention hall in Andhra Pradesh.
No Christians or Muslims Can Be Appointed As Priests In Kerala Temples
The other claim of the video was that Christians and Muslims without any knowledge of Vedas or Puranas are appointed as priests in Kerala temples. Newschecker spoke to Sunil Arumanoor, the PRO of Travancore Devaswom Board, which controls the functioning of majority of the temples in South Kerala, who said, “Only Hindus can be appointed in all posts in Devaswom Board including temporary staff. This is the reason why appointments in Devaswom Board were not handed over to the PSC. PSC could not discriminate on the basis of religion. A separate Devaswom Recruitment Board was set up for appointments in offices and temples under the Devaswom Board. Appointments of priests in Sabarimala are directly conducted by the Travancore Devaswom Board. There are some temples where appointments are done directly by the Devaswom Boards concerned. There are also other temples where the appointment of priests are conducted by the Devaswom Recruitment Board.”
The video also refers to an alleged incident where ‘a Christian priest was drinking beer and urinating on the statue of God’. Newschecker had already debunked this claim last year, and the fact check can be read here.
The video also mixes up between the Communist government and the Congress party in Kerala, using the two words interchangeably. The Communist party (LDF) and Congress party (UDF) are politically opposing factions in Kerala politics.
The video of a man leading Ayyappa devotees to sing in praise of Vavar Swamy at a ‘padi pooja’ ceremony in Andhra Pradesh has been falsely shared with communal claims as that of Kerala.