We are following court’s order, says Deputy Commissioner
Even as the three-day Datta Jayanti got under way at the Bababudangiri shrine in Chikmagalur district on Tuesday, a controversy is brewing on whether any new rituals are being allowed on the shrine’s premises. A case related to the religious nature of the syncretic shrine is pending before the Supreme Court, and until it is settled, the administration is not to allow any ritual started post 1975 as per an order of the court.
Syed Ghouse Mohiyuddin Shakhadri, Sajjada Nasheen (hereditary administrator) of the Sufi shrine, has criticised the district administration for allowing certain rituals that were not practiced before 1975.
“I challenge the district administration and the organisers of the event to prove that Datta Jayanti was celebrated before 1975 on the shrine’s premises. What was conducted before 1975 was only urs,” he said.
K.L. Ashok of Komu Sauharda Vedike, a petitioner in the case pending before the Supreme Court, said that the presence of Shakhadri and Mujawar is crucial to the Endowment Commissioner’s Order of February 25, 1989, as it determines the religious and administrative authority over the shrine. “This is being undermined by the government since the last few years,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner S.T. Anjan Kumar, however, told The Hindu that they were not allowing any ritual which was not followed before 1975. “We are following the court’s order,” he said.
The devotees visiting the shrine can offer flowers to Datta Paduka, light the lamp, break coconut, offer padi (rice, jaggery) and distribute prasada. Besides this, any religious head visiting the shrine would be allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine, he said.
Mr. Anjan Kumar insisted that these were no new rituals. “They are not celebrating the Datta Jayanti or Sankeertana Yatra inside the shrine,” he said.
He said that the court order stated that Hindu religious heads could be allowed into the sanctum sanctorum, while there was no specific direction for the Shakhadri’s entry.
Mr. Ashok, however, countered this saying that the Endowment Commissioner’s order stated that only a Mujawar appointed by the Shakhadri is permitted to offer flowers and “lobhana”. The order also said that only the Shakhadri can accompany revered and acknowledged religious heads into the sanctum sanctorum, which, he added, establishes the authority of the Shakhadri.
On Tuesday, women took part in the Sankeertana Yatra. Later, the devotees proceeded to the shrine in vehicles.
Datta devotees, who are taking part in Datta Mala Abhiyana organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, would take out a Shobha Yatra on Wednesday. The celebrations would end with Datta Paduka darshan by the devotees atop Bababudangiri on Thursday.
A large turnout is expected as this is the first annual Datta Jayanti after the renovation of the shrine earlier this year.
The shrine had remained closed for renovation since 2008. Heavy security arrangements have been made in Chikmagalur town and near the shrine.