As Tripura observed its first ritual slaughter-free Diwali on Sunday, priests and devotees at Tripurasundari Temple, considered one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the country, say they are concerned about the fallout since this would make the rituals incomplete. Earlier this month, a High Court order had banned animal sacrifice in temples of the state.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Tripurasundari Temple’s head priest Chandan Chakraborty said the Puja is done in the name of the King. “Animal sacrifice or ritual slaughter (Boli) is a part of the Puja process. The Court order didn’t give us time to finish sacrificing animals already pledged by devotees to their Goddess. They are returning dejected,” he said, adding how they were doing an ‘Angaheen’ (incomplete) puja now.
The altar (stocks) was removed two days before Diwali, enraging the priests, who see it as a transgression on their religious authority.
The Tripura Sundari Temple at Udaipur, the erstwhile capital of Tripura, is one of the 51 Hindu Shaktipeethas. It is considered one of the holiest Hindu shrines of the country and attracts over 2 lakh devotees every year on Deepavali.
The temple is located at Southern Udaipur, erstwhile capital of princely Tripura. Situated 55 hm away from capital Agartala, the temple is believed to be one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the country. It was built on top of a hillock resembling the back of a turtle. According to Tripura Rajmala, the royal chronicle of Tripura’s Manikya kings, Maharaja Dhanya Manikya Bahadur constructed the temple in 1501 after getting a ‘Swapnadesh’ or divine order from the Supreme Mother or ‘Aadishakti’ in his dream.
Diwali festival at this temple had some makeover this year. Tripurasundari music and dance festival, which sported a variety of ethnic dances and musical performances since last 10 years, was dropped. Instead, a ‘mangal-arati’ with 1,000 devotees was organised in front of Kalyansagar – a pond excavated by the king after building this temple.
Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, his wife Niti Deb and others joined the ‘Mangal-Arati’, which also had 51 priests from 51 ‘shaktipeethas’ of the country.
Later in his inaugural address, Chief Minister Deb said his government is working to develop tourism keeping Tripurasundari Temple as a central attraction. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s too has been calling for promotion of religious tourism.
Prasenjit Das, Jay Patari and few other boys of the locality, who joined as National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers at Diwali Mela this year, said banning animal sacrifice has hurt sentiments of people. “Nearly everyone who comes here is a devotee. They have veneration and respect in them. Stopping it doesn’t seem like a good idea,” they said.
Satya Das, a 60-year-old devotee, said animal sacrifice might be unsavoury to some but stopping it didn’t guarantee everlasting life to the animals. “If you can’t stop indiscriminate slaughtering across the state, how come animal sacrifice in temples was stopped? This is not right,” he said.
There were those who thought this animal sacrifice was fanaticism. “We live in a modern world. Ritual slaughter started as anthropological transition from hunting to domesticated life. Unnecessary brutality in the name of religion is not acceptable now. Calling for revival of boli is religious vigilantism,” said a government employee, who didn’t wish to be named.
Interestingly, the ruling BJP-IPFT government has already filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court challenging the High Court order. On September 27 this year, a Division Bench of the High Court of Tripura passed the judgmemt on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), banning animal sacrifice in temples of the state with immediate effect. However, animal sacrifice continued for eight days after the High Court order till Gomati District Magistrate T K Debnath issued an order on October 5, mandating its ‘strict implementation’.