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Some Hindu temples require men to remove their shirts before they enter. I don't remember the names of any temples off the top of my head, but I do believe that a few temples in and around Thanjavur had this policy, and I remember hearing that this is relatively common across Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

What is the basis (scriptural or otherwise) for this requirement?

  • 2
    From what I have heard, temples are built in such a way that it is filled with positive energy. With the bare body, the energies penetrate the body more easily.Heard this though word of mouth. As for restricting it to men, I guess no one wanted women to walk around topless :P – Bharat Jun 22 '14 at 2:24
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    It's tradition at best and BS the worst. Anyway, you can wear an angavastram (अन्गवस्त्रं) if you want to cover your upper body. Only stitched clothing is not permitted. – Vineet Menon Jun 22 '14 at 5:56
  • There are specific reasons for this ritual. What @Sukan answered is partially right. – user11 Jun 22 '14 at 6:21
  • Well Jaya and Vijaya tried to stop Sanat Kumar from meeting Lord Vishnu and in result they got 3 births as Deamon. So whoever tries come in between Lord and his devotee, he/she will surely be suffer with ultimate punishment. If temple authorities is setting rules on behalf on their own self interest (rules which is not on behalf of shastras) then it is surely a grave sin and sinner will lost their chances of moksha because they will have to take birth again and again in neech yonies. Lord never tolerates if one tries to come between meeting of him and his devotee. – Vishvam Oct 5 '18 at 7:34
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  1. In ancient society the social status of a man is depicted by his cloths covering the upper body. Those who belonged to lower status never covered thier upper bodies. So removal of such indicates the nessesity to discard one´s social status (Egoistic ideas)before entering a shrine to see the God.

  2. The heart (Chakra) centre is the main electro magnetic resonator which connects the chakra system together to work as one unit (Ego). Any cloths especilly metal body armour worn in the ancient times and other protecive covers blocked the chakra energies from getting exposed or connected to the energy fields of the temples.

  • I had asked this question to one priest in Suchindram temple. His answer was, energy flows from altar of diety to your chakra system. For men, Aanahat chakra near to heart is the most significant while for woman its Adya chakra at the forehead. Besides, the custom might have to do with preserving tradition and culture. – gaj Dec 16 '15 at 17:54
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There are two views I've come across so far. They are contradictory, yet I find both of them reasonable given proper explanations.

Reason 1:
Quote from an answer on Quora

these temples are located strategically at a place where the positive energy is abundantly available from the magnetic and electric wave distributions of north/south pole thrust. The main idol is placed in the core center of the temple, known as “Garbhagriha” or Moolasthanam. In fact, the temple structure is built after the idol has been placed. This Moolasthanam is where earth’s magnetic waves are found to be maximum. We know that there are some copper plates, inscribed with Vedic scripts, buried beneath the Main Idol. What are they really? No, they are not God’s / priests’ flash cards when they forget the shlokas. The copper plate absorbs earth’s magnetic waves and radiates it to the surroundings. Thus a person regularly visiting a temple and walking clockwise around the Main Idol receives the beamed magnetic waves and his body absorbs it. This is a very slow process and a regular visit will let him absorb more of this positive energy. Scientifically, it is the positive energy that we all require to have a healthy life.

Reason 2:
Quote from a myth debunking website Nirmukta

This also explains why men are not allowed to wear shirts at a few temples and women are requested to wear more ornaments during temple visits.

Why? Should only the men benefit and not the women? Once again goes to show how all religions are misogynistic to the core. In all probability the men are basically forced to be bare-chested so that they could identify who are all wearing the sacred thread and who are not. Nothing but organized, divinely codified and sanctioned discrimination.

I'll leave it up to you to decide what you choose to believe!

  • Interesting hypothesis, "In all probability the men are basically forced to be bare-chested so that they could identify who are all wearing the sacred thread and who are not." – Vineet Menon Jun 23 '14 at 5:28
  • The first one is the widely circulated reason, I was shocked to see the #2 when I checked that website. But, this is a hypothesis as you say. – Andrew Jun 23 '14 at 5:30
  • Agree that the first one is bonkers unless someone proves it with tangible instruments, but the second one that too from a anti-Hindu site 'Nirmukta' raises my scepticism as an effort to see every Hindu belief through the prism of 'caste system'. – Vineet Menon Jun 23 '14 at 5:41
  • You should look at some of the comments on these posts. Regarding the second view, I'm not sure of the time when this rule/belief of not wearing shirts originated, looking at the Indian system from Post Vedic period and no validations to #1, we can't arrive at a conclusion. – Andrew Jun 23 '14 at 6:02
  • @Vineet Menon No 2 is just a propaganda. In India, when varna system is practiced, you can identify the varna of people just by looking at their dresses. So there was no need to look inside the shirt to see whether they belonged to upper varna or not. You can even identify their marital status just by looking at their dresses. So, probably the reason for not allowing shirts Inside temples (shorts and pants in some temples) is, modern day shirts are unknown to the sastras. But the irony is, they allow a girl even if she come on tight jeans with loose hair. So, there is no misogyny here too. – user9554 Mar 4 '18 at 1:43
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I can think of two reasons.

  1. Clothing habits of the locals due to the weather conditions.
  2. Show of obedience. In a society with class hierarchy, men are expected to show their obedience by not covering their torso. Such obedience was warranted in temples, usually controlled by powerful classes.
  • +1, but everyone irrespective of their varna is supposed to wear any shirt. Caste system doesn't work here, and the obedience is shown towards the presiding deity. – Vineet Menon Jun 22 '14 at 12:27
  • Thankfully, yes. The old caste system is gone. – User 1565623 Jun 22 '14 at 12:32
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You remove your shirt because your shirt has been stitched and one shouldn't wear stitched clothes in a temple. In olden times, the women folks too did not wear stitched clothes and covered their upper body with cotton clothes tied around their upper body (mulla chakku).It has nothing to do with caste. All that came in later.

  • You should cite some sources! – Paṇḍyā Aug 29 '16 at 5:28
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Why traditional dress and men not allowed to wear shirts in temple? these temples are located strategically at a place where the positive energy is abundantly available from the magnetic and electric wave distributions of north/south pole thrust. The main idol is placed in the core center of the temple, known as “Garbhagriha” or Moolasthanam. In fact, the temple structure is built after the idol has been placed. This Moolasthanam is where earth’s magnetic waves are found to be maximum. We know that there are some copper plates, inscribed with Vedic scripts, buried beneath the Main Idol. What are they really? No, they are not God’s / priests’ flash cards when they forget the shlokas. The copper plate absorbs earth’s magnetic waves and radiates it to the surroundings. Thus a person regularly visiting a temple and walking clockwise around the Main Idol receives the beamed magnetic waves and his body absorbs it. This is a very slow process and a regular visit will let him absorb more of this positive energy. Scientifically, it is the positive energy that we all require to have a healthy life.

Why only men and not ladies? Energy flows from altar of diety to your chakra system. For men, Aanahat chakra near to heart is the most significant, so they are suppose to receive the energy my chest. while for woman its Adya chakra at the forehead and face to get tejus.

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There should be an universal dress code to pan Indian temples. Some allow any dresses, some allow kurtha pyjamas, some say bare chested. Its really annoying for both the visitors and the temple officers to explain each other about dress code. Also, everyone is not comfortable to walk bare chested in public, they have their reasons of dressing. A clean and white Kurtha pyjamas should also be allowed along with bare chested macho men in the temples of India. Baring shouldn't be a Barring from seeing the believe God.

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    Welcome to Hinduism SE. You are discussing the issue. This is not a discussion form. This is Q&A site of Hinduism where questions are supposed to serve with proper citation of scripture or scholarly work. Currently you are not answering the question at all, rather raising the concern. Please visit hinduism.stackexchange.com/tour – Mr. Sigma. Mar 4 '18 at 5:07
  • This is not the answer to the question asked. you have submitted your opinion. Please take a tour of the site regarding question / answers. – Suresh Ramaswamy Mar 4 '18 at 8:10
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I had asked this question to one priest in Suchindram temple. His answer was, energy flows from altar of diety to your chakra system. For men, Aanahat chakra near to heart is the most significant while for woman its Adya chakra at the forehead.

Besides, this custom might have to do with preserving tradition and culture.

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