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Trademark for Hindu Temple Deity Pictures – Should Hindu Temple Deities be Patented?

Few months back, Attukal Temple at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala had secured trademark protection for the picture of the deity and the title (tag) associated with the temple – Sabarimala of Women. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple at Trivandrum holds the Guinness world record for the largest gathering of women in the world during the world famous Attukal Pongala Festival (February – March). Now Kerala High Court has registered a suo motu case against patenting of temple deity, on the complaint of a resident from Trivandrum, who has alleged that patenting means that the temple is a business project and not in tune with religious purpose.

Trademark on the picture of the Attukal Devi and title ‘Sabarimala of Women’ means that only the Attukal Temple administration body has the right to use them and this helps to prevent unauthorized use of the picture and the title. (Even this blog cannot publish the picture of the deity.)

The present case that has been registered against the trademark of Attukal Deviwas filed by R.S Praveen Raj and you can find details about the case filed here at Sri Praveen's personal blog.

The need for patenting arose after the popularity of the deity started attracting millions of devotees. Other Shakti or Devi Temples in the region started to use similar tags and pictures to attract devotees. The ritual of Pongala, which was limited to a few Devi Temples in Kerala, is today performed by thousands of temples. The popularity of the Pongala ritual even forced a Christian church in the region to conduct a similar ritual.

“It is not the first time that a temple has sought protection under the IPR. The Tirupati and Kalakasti temples in Andhra Pradesh applied for Geographical Indication tag. The Attukal Temple administration wanted a TM mainly for two reasons. The Attukal aravana (sacred food) is sold with the goddess’s image on the tins, within the temple premises, but spurious versions are available in the local market, we wanted to put an end to that. The other reason was that the Chakkulathukavu temple in Thiruvalla, around 130 kms from here, has been attracting women in large numbers to offer Pongala. The gathering at Attukal is bigger, but there is no guarantee that it will remain so in the future, so we want monopoly on the appellation – Sabarimala of Women,” said temple superintendent, Mr Sreekumar Nair. (The Statesman, Kolkata)

There is no doubt that trademark on the picture of a Hindu deity converts it into a business outfit. Common man usually associates trademark, patent etc with trade, service, goods etc. Sorry to say but the attempt to trademark also converts the deity into a product who can be marketed. It also shows ugly competition among different temple trusts to attract maximum crowd.

The monopoly of the picture of a deity to a particular trust or spiritual organization will have far reaching consequences as people can start claiming trademark to deities and use it for business and other purposes. Trademark on a particular deity will also make it impossible for devotees to publish the picture of the deity. There are numerous other dangers associated with trademark protection to Hindu deities and this can even cause numerous economic, social and regional problems.

There is no doubt that getting a trademark of a deity is due to fear that other people or trusts will take away a share of the wealth that deity brings to a particular temple trust. The people who run the trusts and temples should realize that Hindu devotees have the freedom to worship any deity at any place and in any form.

Trademark and patenting of pictures of Hindu deities should not be allowed at any cause.

Nothing moves in this universe without the power of Goddess Shakti and had people who apply trademark realized this; they would not have attempted to confine Mother Goddess within a trademark.

Mother Shakti appears as an innocent child, loving young woman, compassionate mother and also as Goddess Kali, who devours the universe. Let us all pray to Mother Shakti and Goddess Kali without the boundaries of trademarks and patents. Don’t force Goddess Shakti to take the aggressive avatar of Goddess Kali by treading the path of Adharma.


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