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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Badagas protest in rain against take over of their Kula Devi temple in Tamil Nadu

The DMK government is on a spree taking over temples under HRCE. The latest take over is of Hethai Amman temple, the Kula Devi of Badaga tribe. The tribe hasn’t taken it well and Badagas have been protesting against HRCE braving the pouring sky.

Hethai Mane or the dwelling of deity Hethai is the Kula Devi temple of Badaga people of Nilgiris. Badagas have a unique culture and tradition. They follow their customs rigorously and are a closely knitted group. Hethai Amman was an ancestor of Badagas who is believed to be an incarnation of Parvati Devi. Pedduva Hethe Mane, as the dwelling of the deity is known, is a centuries old temple and has been in existence since ancestors of Badagas migrated to Nilgiris.

Badagas have their own tradition of choosing the head priest of the temple. Allegedly there was some trouble electing a new priest. As the matter went to government officials a peace meeting was organised but no decision could be arrived at. Following this the government has taken over the temple under HRCE control citing the issue.

He community members allege that it was their clan chief Nanjan who had betrayed them by writing to the government suggesting a take over. Badaga Youth Association had accused Nanjan of treachery and conspiring to give away the temple to HRCE. The association also demanded that Nanjan should be removed from his position.

Badaga people have been protesting since the takeover, braving heavy rains. In a video that went viral in social media they could be seen protesting in the rain. BJP and Hindu organisations have extended their support to this protest opposing DMK government’s arbitrary move to take over the temple describing it as an attempt to destroy indigenous culture.

More than 30,000 temples across Tamil Nadu under which were taken over by HRCE are unable to conduct even one time puja everyday. HRCE submitted in the court that these temples don’t generate enough income. While many of these temples are in a dilapidated state due to ill maintenance, HRCE has not taken any initiatives to save them. Yet it continues to take over perfectly functional temples everyday. 

Badagas have been a target of missionaries for a longtime and there have been many instances in which they were harassed by the conversion mafia. Evangelists appropriated Badaga culture in an attempt to lure the innocent village dwelling population. Listed as Scheduled Tribes earlier, they were removed from the list later and were added to the list of OBCs. Since then they have been facing issues in getting education, jobs and government benefits. Missionaries have been trying to exploit these fault lines. The takeover of Hethai Amman temple is seen as a move that would further push conversion of gullible Hindus.

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