BANGALORE, India, May 4 (UPI Asia) – Authorities have banned foreign tourists in "short skirts and bare shoulders" from entering at a 15th century temple, a UNESCO heritage site in the southern state of Karnataka, after worshipers complained.
Officials said a dress code was in place for foreigners at the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi, a village 350km north of Bangalore, famous for its string of temples built 700 to 500 years ago, the Times of India reported Friday.
"The temple is a place of worship. Its sanctity must be maintained," the newspaper quoted an official from the endowment department as saying. "The new rule creates a more positive image of the temple."
The endowment department administers Karnataka's old temples.
The newspaper said the latest trigger for the dress code came after some foreigners entered the temple's "sanctum sanctorum" wearing garlands. Locals also objected tourists in shorts and skirts entering the sanctum sanctorum.
A board has been placed at the temple's entrance saying: "From this point, shorts skirts and bare shoulders are not allowed."
Guards at the temple's entrance have been asked to stop men in shorts and women with uncovered shoulders and in short skirts. Temple authorities now provide visitors with shawls.
"We are not against foreigners but their dress and conduct in the temple is highly objectionable," a temple official named Vignesh Jaiteerth said. "Foreigners are cordial and don't argue. But we always have problems with domestic tourists."
"In spirit it is a good rule but it may send a wrong message to the foreign tourists," a local trader, Venkatesh Murthy, said.
But Karnataka Tourism Department rejects the fears that foreign tourist numbers may come down.
"This will not impact tourist flow," department executive V. N.Krishna told the newspaper. "In fact, there are dress codes at religious places in India and abroad. We cannot violate the sanctity of temples in the name of tourism."