Atheist lobby launched Smear campaign Sabarimala

published on January 20, 2011

Smear campaign on against hill shrine
VR Jayaraj | Kochi – Daily Pioneer

The 2010-11 pilgrimage of the famed Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala in Kerala, which on January 14 witnessed the fourth worst pilgrimage-related disaster in the country, concluded on Wednesday evening even as the atheists’ lobby launched a smear campaign against hill shrine by demanding open admission that the holy Makara Vilakku was artificial and not a celestial occurrence.

The sanctum sanctorum of the temple would close after the brief rituals on Thursday morning but it was effectively closed to pilgrims late Wednesday evening. Only the representative of the Pandalam palace, where Lord Ayyappa was believed to have grown up, would be allowed to have darshan on Thursday.

The shrine had opened for the two-month annual Mandalam-Makara Vilakku pilgrimage on November 16. The shrine had closed on December 27 after the Mandalam Pooja to reopen three days later for the Makara Vilakku festival, which fell on January 14, the day 102 pilgrims were killed in a stampede at Pullumedu, on the way to Sabarimala.

Instead of taking the Government to task for failing to avert the disaster, a lobby of rationalists and materialists has launched a smear campaign against the shrine by saying that the temple authorities themselves were responsible for the tragedy as they had been attracting pilgrims claiming that the Makara Vilakku was a celestial occurrence.

The ultimate event of the Sabarimala pilgrimage is the sighting of the Makara Jyoti, a star appearing in the eastern horizon and the Makara Vilakku, a flame that flickers thrice at Ponnambalamedu, a distant summit. A minimum of two million pilgrims had reached Sabarimala to view these occurrences on January 14.

The Kerala Yuktivadi Sangham (KYS), a rationalists’ forum, and the pro-CPI(M) Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishath (KSSP) argue that the temple authorities have been hiding the fact that the Makara Vilakku is a man-made occurrence in order to attract more and more pilgrims.

The KYS says that it had on several occasions since 1980 come out with pictures of this artificial light being lit by employees of the Travancore Devaswom Board, the body in charge of temple administration, and the Kerala State Electricity Board with the assistance of the police.

The KSSP wants the temple authorities to tell the people that the Makara Vilakku is an artificially made flame so that devotees from other states would have the freedom to decide whether they should undertake such a tedious pilgrimage to see behold it. People are thronging the shrine on the particular day because they think the light is divine, the outfit says.

Nalinakshan Nair, former Devaswom Commissioner, said that he knew the people who used to create the flame at Ponnambalamedu but he did not want to reveal their identity. According to Rahul Easwar, a member of the Thazhamon family of priests who oversee the spiritual affairs of the temple, Makara Vilakku was being lit by Malayarayas, an Adivasi tribe.

However, Tantri Kantararu Rajeevaru, the traditional chief priest of the temple, refused to be dragged into the controversy. “Has anyone said that this is not artificial?” he asked the media. “The controversy is unnecessary. This (flame) is part of worship and it is approved by all. I don’t want to say anything more than that,” he said.

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