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Karnataka banks on education to end bizarre ritual

Thursday December 15, 2011 11:54:24 AM, IANS

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 involved.

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 January.

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.








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