P. Ramavarma Raja, Pandalam Palace Managing Committee president, has clearly told us about the makarajyothi appearing on the Sabarimala from the eastern forests, and his word should be treated as final on the topic. A very senior civil servant and a guruswamy who took me with him to Sabarimala in 1962 gave me the same version but I did not believe him then. Mr. Raja has given a clear answer to the query raised by the Kerala High Court — whether the makarajyothi is man-made — and the government can now concentrate on crowd management.

What Mr. Raja has disclosed will not, in any way, diminish the sanctity of the Sabarimala shrine or the importance of the star that appears on the horizon on makarasankranthi.

C.P. Chandra Das,

Germantown, Maryland

All organisers are well aware that the jyothi is man-made. They have not publicised the information all these years. The photo of the cement platform used to light the fire is an excellent contribution by The Hindu to its readers. One hopes the crowd will decrease next year and the TDB will be able to manage it. Let us appreciate the fact that it is humanly impossible to manage a crowd of about three crores in five days and nobody can be blamed for any unforeseen tragedy. Ayyappa devotees should understand that the entire month (December-January) is auspicious.

K.R.K. Prabhakara Murty,

Vijayawada

I wish to congratulate The Hindu on publishing the photograph of the Ponnambalamedu. The media should take the initiative to educate pilgrims on the makarajyothi. It is obvious that many who assembled on January 14 at Pulmedu did so for a glimpse of the jyothi. The television channels in Kerala which vie with one another in bringing exclusive reports of the jyothi are silent.

K. Narayanan,

Udupi

The Hindu deserves praise for publishing the report on the makarajyothi, which has been a cause of various debates spanning over a decade. The sensitive matter has been hanging fire for too long. I hope the reports will put an end to all myths and rumours. There is absolutely no room for any further controversy.

I also hope the political parties in Kerala will not blow the matter out of proportion and play with the common man's sentiments.

Sumesh Balachandran,

Kochi

I thank Mr. Raja for his clarifications. The media and politicians should stop drawing mileage from the makarajyothi issue. All religions and places of worship have some mythological stories associated with them. It is the faith of the masses which draw them to these places. It would do a world of good if the debate on the makarajyothi ended. Instead of playing the blame game and passing the buck, the Kerala government and the TDB should work to ensure that the January 14-type tragedies do not recur.

Kala Kalyanram,

Coimbatore

The controversy is out of context and ought to have been avoided. Every religion has its sets of beliefs and it will do no good to seek proof for them.

As far as I can remember, the Dewaswom Board, the temple authorities and the families of Tantris have, at no point of time, claimed or even stated that the makaravilakku seen atop Ponnambalamedu is divine. It is a belief cultivated by people over time. However, this is not the belief of all devotees — many are aware that the light is man-made. Lighting a lamp on top of the Ponnambalamedu is just a part of the overall makaravilakku celebrations.

A. Venkateswaran,

Chennai

True bhakti is not based on miracles. Everybody knows that the Tiruvannamalai deepam is lit by people. Does that make it any less holy? Lord Ayyappa is the Lord of satya and dharma in Kaliyuga. I regularly undertake a pilgrimage to the Sabarimala not to see any miracle, but to observe the viradam (regimen) associated with it to the best of my ability and surrender myself to the Swamy unconditionally. And may I add that he has made me witness many a miracle in my personal life!

G. Manogar,

Chennai

The debate on the makarajyothi is diverting people's attention from the main issue of stampede. Why stir up a hornet's nest? Let people believe what they have believed in for ages. How does it matter to the government?

P.R. Sruthi,

Malappuram

The Hindu has done well to publish opinions from relevant authorities on the makarajyothi, supporting them with a photograph. The makarasankranthi is auspicious and it is logical that people worship the deity on that day. Agni is considered a purifying god. Almost all Hindu temples have fire-related rituals. They make the gatherings emotional. The purpose is to enable the devotees to concentrate on god. The fire lit in Ponnambalamedu serves a similar objective.

This aspect should be given adequate publicity to avoid mishaps at Sabarimala in future. At the same time, the worship of Ayyappa is extraordinarily pristine with or without the lighting of a fire at Ponnambalamedu.

K.R. Krishnaswami,

Chennai

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