PONDA: The usual suspects turn out to be better dressed and show better understanding than those expected to be prim and proper.
Implementation of the dress code for tourists in the temple town of Ponda has thrown up a few surprises and some insights for temple authorities.
"The most unexpected aspect is that we find domestic tourists dressed more immodestly than foreign tourists," says Bhalchandra Priolker, general secretary of Mangueshi temple.
The Mangueshi temple along the state highway to Belgaum is the most popular among tourists. A few other temples in the cluster are also frequented by domestic as well as foreign tourists. Upset by the objectionable dressing of foreigners and other tourists, temple authorities decided to enforce a dress code for visitors to maintain the sanctity of the places of worship.
With a few exceptions, most temples find it difficult to implement the dress code due to some inherent problems, sources said. The guidelines are simple. If tourists are found wearing shorts and miniskirts, authorities tell them to cover up with an uparne. "This is a plain cloth which can be bought from the temple committee office for Rs 50," a source said.
Skimpily-dressed tourists are allowed to enter only after wrapping it around their waist. Priolker further stated that foreign tourists show better dress sense than domestic tourists. "They resort to arguments with temple authorities while foreign tourists take the directions sensibly," he said.
The Shree Shantadurga temple at Kavlem is another popular tourist spot. It records around 2,000 footfalls per day during the peak season, both domestic as well as international tourists. "The dress code here is difficult to enforce. The seriousness with which some temples in South India deal with this issue is not seen here," said temple accountant D V Kushte.
Temple authorities in Shree Ramnath temple at Ramnathi, are also unable to pull any strings on the much-talked about dress code. "Although we have a notice displayed requesting tourists to dress decently, we cannot stop them from entering," said a temple official.
Authorities at Shree Mahalsa temple at Mardol have tried a completely different solution. They have banned the entry of foreign tourists into the temple since 2011. The board near the temple entrance reads: "Entry Restricted for Foreign Tourists". Suvaran Nevrekar, former treasurer of the temple committee, said that foreign tourists fail to understand the culture and offend the sanctity of the temple by dressing "inappropriately".