Bangalore: Karnataka's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
government has struck a fine balance of preferring education to
legislation to end a temple's bizarre ritual denounced as
"obnoxious" and "anti-Dalit" by its opponents.
It has also bought time and made peace with the believers of the
practice called "made snana" or "urulu seve" which involves
rolling over plantain leaves with leftovers of meals eaten by
Brahmins, either as fulfillment of a vow or in the belief that it
cures of skin ailments.
The ritual takes place once a year during the three-day Champa
Sashti festival in late November or early December at a temple
devoted to Hindu god Subramanya at Kukke, a small town in western
Ghats, about 350 km from here.
Declining to ban the practice on the ground that it will hurt the
sentiments of the believers, the government has announced it will
launch a campaign against the practice in the hope that this will
eventually lead to its end.
Higher education and Muzrai (religious affairs) Minister V.S.
Acharya told the state legislature early this week that his
government will not support any ritual or practice that exploits
Dalits or backward communities.
However, banning the "made snana" will "hurt the sentiments of
believers" and hence the government prefers awareness campaign
against it rather than use legislation to ban it, he said.
Acharya has not spelt out when the campaign will start and who all
will participate, though he said religious leaders will also be
The government may be forced to announce details of its plans
before the end of this month as a group opposed to the practice is
organising a 'padayatra' (march) from Bangalore to Udupi, about
400 km away, through the temple town of Kukke in the first week of
The Mysore-based group, Karnataka State Backward Classes Awareness
Forum, is insisting that the government ban the ritual before the
end of the year.
Otherwise it will go ahead with the 'padayatra', for which support
of various religious leaders is also being sought, Forum president
K.S. Shivaramu told reporters in Mysore reacting to the government
preferring awareness campaign to legislation to end the practice.
The 'padayatra', if taken out, can lead to trouble, particularly
in Kukke, as Shivaramu was bashed up in that temple town Nov 29
when he went there to protest the ritual.
On Dec 5, the town observed a shutdown to protest "outside
interference in its affairs".
The attack on Shivaramu led to widespread condemnation and demand
for immediate government intervention to end the ritual, which the
government and the temple authorities say has been in practice for
around 400 years.