Authorities wants ban on temple fair in Bandipur this year

The Forest Department has sought a ban on public participation in the Beladakuppe Mahadeshwara temple jatra to be held in the second week of December in view of the COVID-19 and to minimise disturbance to wildlife.

An annual affair which is growing in terms of public participation every year, it has raised concern among wildlife activists and Forest Department personnel as the temple is located in the core area of Bandipur Tiger Reserve and disturbs wildlife.

The Forest Department has already conveyed to the Revenue Department to ensure that there is no public participation, according to S.R.Natesh, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Other senior officials said the authorities can take a cue from Mysuru Dasara which was curtailed and reduced to a symbolic event this year while there are restrictions on the number of people who can participate in the Panchalinga Darshana at Talakad later this month. Hence they urged the district administration to ban public gathering and permit only the priests to enter the temple precincts to perform the rituals.

Beladakuppe Jatra was a non-event till a few years ago but has gained in popularity and tends to attracts thousands of people. Wildlife activists who have campaigned for shifting the temple outside the core tiger reserve said fairs on such a large scale entails stage programmes, use of loudspeakers which disturbs the animals and mass feeding of devotees and the leftover food tends to draw animals which gorge on them.

This not only poses a threat to wildlife but will aggravate human-animal conflict as wild animals could become habituated to people’s presence and even start straying into human landscape. Villages surrounding the Hediyala range are already beset with a high degree of human-animal conflict and such fairs will aggravate the crisis, aver the activists. If wild animals lose human fear they become susceptible to being poached.

Since the last few years, restrictions are in place and people are only allowed to visit the temple while the fair is held outside the forest limit. But the number of people drawn to the temple during the jatra is itself on the rise and this has a bearing on wildlife habitat. More than 5,000 people visited the temple on a single day considered auspicious, last month, according to Ravikumar, Assistant Conservator of Forest, Hediyala range.

He said relocation was a must and is not impossible as the fair can be held outside the forest limits where another temple can be constructed and the idol consecrated again.

But this is easier said than done and past efforts involving influential religious pontiffs has not yielded any result. It was resisted by the temple committee members among whom are local elected representatives.

The temple festival has emerged as a major contentious issue between the wildlife conservationists on one hand and local community on the other and comes to the fore every year with the authorities trying to balance religious sentiments of the public with wildlife conservation imperatives.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 3:32:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/authorities-wants-ban-on-temple-fair-in-bandipur-this-year/article33223002.ece

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