Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin on Sunday asserted temples are meant for the public and cannot be someone's personal property.
He said certain forces unable to stand the various welfare measures taken by the state Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department, including appointing 'archakas' (priests) from all castes, were trying to malign the DMK government with baseless allegations.
The Chief Minister presided over a mass marriage of 31 couples at a prominent city temple here and distributed 'seervarisai' -- the range of items given to married couples.
The event was held at the Arulmigu Maruntheeswarar Temple at Thiruvanmiyur in Tamil Nadu.
"Whether it is monarchy or democracy, temples are for people only. They are for the public only, irrespective of any kind of rule. Shrines are not the personal property of someone. This (HR&CE) department was created during the Justice Party rule only to change that situation (of temples being in individuals' control)," he said.
Recalling the DMK's contributions in this sector, he said more temples were consecrated in the party's past regimes headed by the late M Karunanidhi.
Among others, the present government has reclaimed Rs 3,700 crore worth of encroached temple lands while a woman has been appointed as a priest, even as men from all castes have been appointed as 'archakas' in the temple, fulfilling the wish of reformist leader 'Periyar' E V Ramasamy, the Chief Minister added.
Some forces opposed to unity were creating roadblocks but the government was facing them legally, Stalin said in an apparent reference to critics of such measures.
"Some people are unable to tolerate these. That is why they are indulging in mudslinging and spreading falsehoods. They don't have anything to do with politics over and therefore are using religion to make allegations against us. They don't have any proof," he added.
The mass marriage was held in line with an announcement made in the 2022-23 Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department grants in the state Assembly, an official release said. The HR&CE department manages temples in the state.
The Chief Minister presided over the marriage event and presented the 'seervarisai,' comprising among others, a cot and utensils.
Across the state, 217 couples got married under the scheme on Sunday.