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Monday, June 5, 2023

Traditional oracles and devotees restricted from entering Kodungallur Devi temple

Traditional Hindu oracles and devotees were stopped from entering Kodungallur Devi temple in Thrissur district of Kerala by the district administration and govt.-controlled devaswom (temple) board, citing pandemic concerns. 

S Shanavas IAS, the District Collector of Thrissur restricted the ancient rituals at the temple dedicated to Maa Bhadrakali. The decision was taken unilaterally by bureaucrats and devaswom employees, paying no heed to multiple requests from Hindu devotees and oracles to allow them to practice their rituals and celebrate the Meena Bharani festival. The oracles had earlier protested the scaling down of festivities by performing their ritual dance called Thullal but to no avail.

Oracles from all over the state start arriving at the temple, also known as Sree Kurumba Bhagavati Temple, for Meena Bharani around this time of March to participate in the festivities. They encircle the temple in their traditional attire and upon attaining divine trance hit their foreheads with their sickle-shaped swords. They then embalm the wounds with turmeric powder and the wound heals on their own which is believed to be due to divine grace.

Traditionally known for animal sacrifices to please Goddess Bhadrakali this was stopped by ‘reformists’ and now the only sacrifice done today is the offering of the blood of birds called “Kozhikallu Moodal” that was planned to happen but was banned by the district administration. 

The temple and its rituals play an important part since it is at the head of all Kali temples in Malabar tregion. Originally a Shiva Temple, it is believed that Parasuram himself installed the Kali murthi near that of Bhagwan Shiva. It was also an important temple during the Chera period with Kodungallur being their capital. The Goddess itself is in her Rudra bhavam (fierce form), is highly revered, and faces north. The murthi of the Devi is carved out of a jackfruit tree and stands tall at seven feet. She has eight hands each carrying weapons or attributes. 

The town council officials and elected representatives had earlier decided that they would allow temple rituals this year but this was rejected by the police. Yesterday, blaming Covid, the local administration closed three out of the four gates of the temple and allowed only a select few to enter. 

The police have warned have warned local lodges and hotels not to rent out rooms. Parking around the temple is banned too. Vehicles coming from the north carrying devotees were denied entry at the district borders and were sent back. The devaswom board made sure that no shops opened in the vicinity. Police took over the whole town and even warned locals in the area not to allow guests. The Police have promised further action to clamp down on this year’s festival.

Defying these threats, some ardent devotees have started to arrive and some oracles did perform their thullal and other rituals yesterday. The police denied entry to bystanders who accompany the oracles which led to protests. Last year too all rituals were muted mentioning the same Covid measures. While there is no government control over entry into mosques and Churches, it is there only when it comes to temples, questioned the devotees. Protestors also questioned why Kodungallur temple is being singled out when festivals are being conducted in some other temples with traditional pomp and excitement.

Practicing Hindus in Kerala say that atheist CPM leaders and workers have been appointed to the  various Devaswom Boards which control Hindu temples in Kerala. The main goal of these boards has become extracting hundi (offerings) money to bolster government finances, while belittling rituals and practice of Dharma. Hindus across the state were shocked a few years back when the Devaswom minister, Kadakampally Surendran, was seen inaugurating a beef fest organized by SFI, ruling CPM’s student wing.

While Shanavas appears to be a Muslim, secular-minded/atheist Hindu bureaucrats have also shown similar contempt for Hindu rituals and traditions. Incidentally, S Shanavas is also the treasurer of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi which recently awarded the best novel prize to a book which says that ‘young Hindu girls dress well while going to temples to signal their readiness for sex to the priests’.

Incidentally, the legendary ‘oldest Muslim mosque’ in Bharat lies at a stone’s throw from the Kodungallur Devi temple. The secular myth coined about this mosque has no basis in fact, but the lie has been repeated so many times that even the PM was found repeating the same! While even that mosque is open for public prayers, much older Hindu temples are severely restricted for devotees on their most important festival. 

As expected, the partisan local media failed to address the issues of the Hindus in Kerala and the whole incident of violation of Hindu traditions and rituals went almost unremarked.

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