District administration backtracks after ‘banning' ritual on Sunday
Several men, women and children performed ‘made snana', a ritual in which people roll on plantain leaves containing leftovers of lunch served to Brahmins at the Kukke Subrahmanya temple, on Monday.
Assistant Commissioner of Puttur subdivision Sundar Bhat, who is the administrator of the temple, was reported to have said on Sunday that the ritual would not be allowed to be performed this year. It is said that the Dakshina Kannada administration allowed the ritual on Monday bowing to pressure from local people.
There was a controversy over the ritual last year following opposition by certain groups. The groups had urged the Government to ban the ritual in a temple that comes under the Muzrai Department. ‘Made snana' has been performed on the temple premises for three days during the annual Champa Shasthi festival for many years.
‘Made Snana' is a ‘harake' (an offering made for fulfilment of a wish). In this case the offering is to roll on leftovers of food consumed by Brahmins. Another reason this ritual is the belief that it cures skin diseases. Those who perform the ritual include Brahmins.
Speaking to presspersons on Monday, Mr. Bhat said that on Sunday he had “appealed to the people to cooperate with his request” by not performing the ‘harake' as it was not among the listed sevas at the temple. Referring to his statement on Sunday, Mr. Bhat said he had not issued an order, but had only made a request. A copy of the ‘harake' listed at the temple is available with The Hindu. It does not mention ‘made snana'.
Mr. Bhat said Deputy Commissioner N.S. Channappa Gowda had given him an “oral” order to permit the ‘harake'.
Around 10.30 a.m. a few people at the temple began to express disagreement with Mr. Bhat's decision. A banner stating that the ritual would be performed on all three days was put up on one of chariots of the temple outside the entrance. A.V. Nagesh, a man from the Malekudiya community, said that the temple's “ancient tradition” must be continued. He threatened that no one from the Malekudiya community would prepare the temple ratha for the ‘shasthi' festival if ‘made snana' was banned.
Legend has it that the Malekudiyas, a tribal community, were the ones who originally installed the temple deity. Preparation of the temple chariot is ritually done by members of the community.
A number of Malekudiya people living in and around Subrahmanya gathered outside the temple office. For around half an hour, a group of people were closeted with Mr. Bhat in his chamber before the go-ahead was given.
Vidya Prasanna Tirtha of Subrahmanya Math said that a devotee should have the right to “rectify” his ‘dosha' .
Leader of the Social Transformation Movement in Belthangady P. Dikaiah told The Hindu that such a ritual being performed in a government temple would amount to the government indirectly supporting casteism.
The Deputy Commissioner toldThe Hinduthat district administration “had not given permission”, but had merely allowed the people to perform the ritual. He did not give a clear answer when asked why the district administration thought of banning the ritual on Sunday.