Updated: May 5, 2022 7:53:37 am
A ban order issued by the administration against a mutt ritual in Mayiladuthurai near Trichy has triggered a controversy, with rationalists and Hindutva groups taking positions on either side.
During the ‘Pattina Pravesam’ ritual held by the Dharmapuram mutt, devotees carry the Dharmapuram adheenam, or the chief of the mutt, on a silver palanquin.
Following a protest call by K Veeramani, president of the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) party, J Balaji, Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) of Mayiladuthurai, asked police to stop the ritual that was scheduled to be held on May 22.
While Veeramani called the ritual “a violation of human rights”, questioning why somebody had to be carried on a palanquin, rationalists in the state sought for the practice to be abolished like in the case of hand-pulled rickshaws.
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Meanwhile, the BJP, a party that has made many failed attempts over the past seven years to consolidate Hindu believers in the state, was quick to jump in, with senior leader H Raja releasing a photograph on Tuesday of Veeramani himself sitting on what seemed like an oversized, decorated throne, surrounded by children and youth – a picture clicked during a DK conference three years ago.
After the government order on the ritual was handed over to the Dharmapuram mutt chief, Hindu outfits approached the Mayiladuthurai district collector on Monday asking for the ban to be lifted and the ritual to be conducted peacefully. A group of devotees organised a protest against the government’s move on Tuesday.
Local sources said the palanquin ritual was last held in December 2019, when the present Dharmapuram adheenam, Masilamani Gnanasambanda Pramacharya Swami, took charge following the death of the earlier mutt chief.
With the controversy brewing, the chief of another mutt, the Madurai Adheenam, Shri La Shri Harihara Shri Ghanasammantha Desika Paramacharya Swamigal, urged Chief Minister M K Stalin to lift the ban and allow the centuries-old tradition to be continued. If not, he said, he said he would shoulder the palanquin himself at Dharmapuram.
“Dharmapuram adheenam has a legacy of protecting and bridging the Tamil and Shaiva traditions. I consider the adheenam as my Guru, my teacher. My Guru had been coming on palanquin for the past 500 years and why are there objections now? I assume it is because of the role of the Governor in this,” he said, referring to Governor R N Ravi’s recent visit to the mutt.
Of late, the government and the Governor have been involved in a series of run-ins, with the DMK and its allies recently boycotting events at Raj Bhavan. Two weeks ago, Governor Ravi had visited the Dharmapuram adheenam, where he was welcomed with state honours.
Saying past governments never objected to the ritual, the Madurai mutt chief said, “Once, when an adheenam chief died in Kashi, the Congress regime then and then President V V Giri made special arrangements to fly back his mortal remains. This palanquin ritual was never stopped by the British or even Kalaignar (Stalin’s father and DMK chief M Karunanidhi, a staunch rationalist). That was the respect commanded by the Dharmapuram adheenam,” he said.
The tussle between the government and the mutt comes barely a week after a group of seers from various mutts in the state, including the Dharmapuram adheenam, met Stalin and praised the government for providing the necessary resources for temples and mutts in the state.
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