Hindus object to court’s query on Sabarimala’s holy flame

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on January 22, 2011

Can the Judiciary interfere in matters of faith? This is the question currently being discussed in Kerala in the context of the January 14 stampede at Pullumedu in Idukki district in which 102 Sabarimala pilgrims were killed.

Hindu organizations of Kerala and the BJP are up in arms against the alleged campaign being carried out by materialists against the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala based on the question whether Makara Jyoti, a flame that appears at a summit far away from the shrine on a particular day, is a celestial occurrence or artificial.

Hindu organizations allege that anti-religious materialists are making tirades against the Makara Jyoti, the ultimate event of the annual two-month pilgrimage of Sabarimala, to tarnish the divine image of the shrine. The materialists are arguing that the disaster at Pullumedu would not have been so huge if so many pilgrims had not reached there to behold the Makara Jyoti.

While examining the possible reasons of the Pullumedu disaster, the Kerala High Court had the other day asked the concerned authorities to make clear whether the Jyoti was divine or artificial. On Saturday, petitions were filed by rationalists in the Supreme Court and Kerala High Court seeking orders to end the ritual of Makara Jyoti.

The Kerala BJP criticized the High Court’s intervention in harsh words. State party president V Muraleedharan said the court was crossing its limits with such observations and inquiries. The court’s job was to interpret laws and not to decide whether a faith-based event was divine or artificial, he said.

Kummanam Rajasekharan, general secretary of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, says that celestial occurrence or man-made, the Jyoti appearing at Ponnnambalamedu, a distant summit which is believed to be the original base of Lord Ayyappa shrine, is deeply rooted in religious belief and therefore it is highly objectionable that it is being made a controversy.

“This controversy was triggered by certain vested interests with ulterior motives in order to save the real culprits behind the stampede,” Kummanam said. “There is no direct link between the tragedy and the Jyoti and the controversy is deliberately triggered with the intention of hurting the faith of millions of devotees,” he added.

The High Court’s references about Makara Jyoti could hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus, said the Kerala State Hindu Devaswom Board. If the court wanted to know anything about temple rituals it should have consulted the Tantris (priests), astrologers or Hindu scholars and not the Government lawyer, it said.

Temple administration body Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) had taken a position in the court that it had never said that the Jyoti was not man-made while Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, himself a materialist, said the Government did not intend to allow “materialists or astrologers” to examine the issue of the Jyoti.

Kerala Viswa Karma Sabha president PR Devadas alleged that the Pullumedu tragedy and the controversy over the Makara Jyoti were indications of a conspiratorial move to sabotage the Sabarimala pilgrimage. The move was to tarnish the divine image of Sabarimala through smear campaigns, he said.

The materialists are arguing that the Jyoti is created artificially by people from the Electricity Board and Forest Department on orders from the Government and the TDB. However, Kantararu Rajeevaru, the traditional chief priest of the Sabarimala shrine, said the controversy over the Jyoti was unnecessary since it is a matter of belief which all devotees accepted.

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