TAMIL NADU

Mass sacrifice foiled at Sirumalanji temple

Goats being sacrificed at a distance from the Sudalai Andavar temple at Sirumalanji, about 40 km from Tirunelveli, in the early hours of Saturday.

Goats being sacrificed at a distance from the Sudalai Andavar temple at Sirumalanji, about 40 km from Tirunelveli, in the early hours of Saturday.  

Tirunelveli Sept. 6. A proposed mass animal sacrifice on the altar of the Sudalai Andavar temple at Sirumalanji, about 40 km from here, during its biennial festival, was prevented by the police last night, as most of the devotees, fearing legal action, offered goats, pigs and rooster only at a distance from the shrine.

While filtering out animals and birds at three checkposts on the roads leading to the village, which had become a `sterilised zone', a strong police force, led by the Nanguneri Deputy Superintendent, Singaravelu, also brought the trance-dancer (`saamiyaadi'), M. Muthuraj, under its control since last evening. Though this strategy created a flutter among the public, it successfully prevented Muthuraj, a retired village administrative officer, from moving out of his house to the cremation ground, a ritual followed for centuries prior to the commencement of animal sacrifice.

A good crowd, mostly youngsters, gathered in front of his house on a small lane to see their `Saami' going to the cremation ground. However, the police brought the situation under their control. A band group was also ordered not to play instruments.

As per the tradition, the trance-dancer would leave for the crematorium at around 8.30 p.m. and come back to the temple at around midnight to offer special poojas to Sudalai Andavar and then to taste the blood of birds and animals, sacrificed on the altar in front of the shrine. As Muthuraj was stopped from going to the cremation ground till 1.10 a.m., the other rituals also did not happen.

Some reporters wanted to meet him to personally know whether he had been kept under house arrest. Muthuraj, without the traditional robes of Sudalai Andavar, came out of his house and told them that the legislation banning the sacrifice of birds and animals on temple premises would only draw a line between the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian. ``As we want to please and feed the small gods, we offer the animals and birds to Sudalai Andavar, one of the powerful small gods. Though enforcing the ban is a clear act of discrimination, we don't want to break it, as it is the devotees who will have to suffer'', he yelled.

Asked whether he had been put under house arrest, Muthuraj, after a long silence, pointed his finger at the DSP, who was inside his house to monitor the movements of the trance-dancer, and said: ``Now, you might have understood everything''.

Though the youngsters repeatedly urged him to start his traditional yatra towards the crematorium, Muthuraj remained silent. The situation continued till 1 a.m. and he appeared before and pacified the agitated crowd gathered in front of his house. When he, in the robes of Sudalai Andavar, came out of his house and tried to move towards the cremation ground at 1.10 a.m., Narayanan, revenue divisional officer, Cheranmahadevi, and police officials intercepted him and asked him to go to the temple and appeal to the devotees not to sacrifice birds and animals.

The over one-lakh crowd, which had turned up at the temple even from the neighbouring districts to see the trance-dance, had only to hear an appeal from Muthuraj. ``Please abide by the law and don't sacrifice the birds or animals even in the areas adjoining the temple''.

Without directly saying anything about the sacrifice, he said: ``Now you can do whatever you have to do in a place where you are staying. I, Sudalai Andavar, will accept it''.

After a brief stay in the temple, he was taken to his house, amid tight security, at 2 a.m.

The disappointed crowd started leaving the temple premises around 3 a.m. while some persons reluctantly sacrificed the animals at several places, at least half km from the temple. Those who did not want to offer the sacrifice away from the temple, took back the animals.

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