Karnataka may ban bizarre tradition at temples

Bangalore : The BJP government in Karnataka may ban a bizarre tradition of people rolling over plantain leaves with leftovers of meals, eaten by Brahmins, at some temples in the belief it cures them of skin ailments.

The ritual, said to be 400 years old, is mostly undertaken at the Kukke Subramanya temple in the coastal district of Dakshina Kannada, though it is practiced at some temples in neighbouring Udupi district also.

Called the “urulu seve or made snana”, the roll-over ritual is performed on the annual “Shasthi” – sixth day of the month – festival late November or early December.

Like last year, this year too the ritual at Kukke Subramanya, undertaken on Nov 29, had evoked strong protests from Dalits, sections of writers, lawyers and even some BJP ministers.

As the protests against the ritual continued, Social Welfare Minister A. Narayanaswamy Tuesday announced in Bangalore that he has sought a detailed report from the district authorities and will take a decision on banning it if it is established that only Dalits were performing it.

He said the authorities have been given four days to submit their report on whether people from different communities were taking part or only Dalits were, and if there was any pressure or force to undertake the ritual.

Labour Minister B.N. Bachche Gowda, opposing the ritual, said in Bangalore that the cabinet will soon take a decision to ban it.

Another BJP minister, V.S. Acharya, handling higher education ministry, however, has been speaking against a ban, saying “we should not go against people’s beliefs.” He has been justifying his stand: “No one is forcing anybody to perform the ritual, which is said to have been practiced for 400 years.”

Temple authorites also say that it is not part of rituals recognized and performed at the temple but a tradition where people of different communities, including Brahmins, take part.

The temple, about 300 km from Bangalore, is devoted to Subramanya. The idol of Subramanya is in the shape of a nine-headed serpent. Legend has it that Subramanya protected serpent god Vasuki, who had taken shelter in a cave at Kukke from Garuda.

A well-known ritual performed at the temple is “sarpa samskara” to ward off the effect of “sarpa dosha” or the curse of the serpent god.

Among the celebrities who have prayed at the temple is cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.

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