Thiruvananthapuram | A Christian priest in Kerala returned his church licence for performing pastoral services following a row over him observing the 41-day abstinence followed by Lord Ayyappa devotees to offer prayers at the famous Sabarimala shrine.
Rev Manoj K G, a priest under the Anglican Church of India, has been observing the 41-day-long traditional 'vratham' as part of his plans to go to the temple on a pilgrimage later this month.
"When the church came to know about it, they said such conduct was unacceptable and sought an explanation from me as to why I violated its doctrines and rules.
Manoj was a software engineer before he took up priesthood.
He said that he took up priesthood in order to give authenticity to his spiritual teachings.
Visuals showing him wearing a customary black attire used by Ayyappa devotees recently surfaced online.
The priest said as the news came out, triggering a controversy, a section of members of his community criticised him and the church authorities asked him about his plans.
''My denomination has its own rules, regulations and norms. They could not accept what I have done...Questions have come up,'' he said.
Manoj said he decided to give back to the church the licence it had given him to perform ritual services in order to fulfil his dream of offering prayers at Sabarimala.
''The decision was taken as they demanded an explanation. I don't want to cause them any difficulty because of my Sabarimala visit. I can understand their position,'' he added.
Manoj, however, added that although the licence to perform church services has been given back, he would continue as a priest under the church.
He said he would go ahead with his 'vratham' and there is no change in his temple visit plan. Manoj said he is planning to visit the Sabarimala shrine on September 20.
''I strongly believe that I have not done anything wrong. My intention is to understand Hinduism beyond its rituals, just as I did in the case of Christianity,'' he said.
It was natural to be stoned when a person tries to break conventions, the priest added.
Church authorities were not available for comment.