Post-stampede, divinity of Sabarimala light questioned

Last Updated 18 January 2011, 16:37 IST

On Makar Sankranti, which is considered the most auspicious day in the two-month long festival season of the Sabarimala temple, more than a million devotees stay put in and around the temple waiting anxiously for the celestial light to appear.

Kerala Yukthivadi Sangham (KYS), a rationalist organisation, has been leading a campaign for the past three decades against the 'cheating' by the state government and the Devasom Board, that looks after the temple affairs, and accusing them of making an artificial light appear on the horizon.

D. Sukumaran, an office bearer of the KYS, is leading a march to the Devasom Board office Tuesday, demanding to put an end to this.

"Since 1980, on numerous occasions we have come out with pictures of this artificial light being lit by employees of the Devasom and the Kerala State Electricity Board who are accompanied by the police," said 58-year-old Sukumaran, a retired Kerala State Transport Corporation official.

In 1982, a day before the divine celestial light appeared, KYS created an artificial light to prove their point, he said.

"This was even reported by All India Radio, but was promptly denied by the Devasom," Sukumaran said.

He added that in 1983 the KYS activists were badly beaten up by the police when they were at Ponnambalmedu, the area where the light is created with the help of burning camphor.

Believers consider the citing of the celestial light as an auspicious event and over the last few years there has been a huge influx of pilgrims from the southern states to witness the sight.

The Kerala Shastra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP), a pro-Communist Party of India-Marxist social science movement, Tuesday asked the state government to come clean on the celestial light.

"It is high time that the state government came out in the open to say if this celestial light is a man-made event because lakhs of devotees from neighbouring states are taken for a ride," KSSP president K. Balakrishnan said.

"We have decided to get in touch with similar organisations in these neighbouring states to run an awareness campaign on this event because it is high time that this stops," he added.

Kantaru Maheswararu, the supreme priest of the Sabarimala temple, created a controversy on the event in 2008.

He clarified in a letter that Makar Jyothi is a star that appears in the sky above the temple around dusk time on the first day of the month of Makaram, while Makar Villaku means a light which is lit as soon as the star appears in the sky.

His grandson Rahul Eashwar had remarked that the light is artificially created on top of a hill (Ponnambalamedu) away from the Sabarimala temple but he does not know who does that.

With the Kerala High Court demanding a detailed report on the stampede from the state government by Thursday, all eyes are on whether the court will ask the government to come clean on the celestial light.

The Sabarimala temple, located on a hill in the Western Ghat ranges at an altitude of 914 metres above the sea level and four km uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district in central Kerala, is one of the most famous Hindu pilgrim centres in south India. The number of pilgrims visiting the shrine has been steadily going up every year.

Last week, a stampede occurred on Makar Sankranti day at Pulumedu, a forested area about 30 km from the temple, when pilgrims were returning after watching the celestial light.

(Published 18 January 2011, 08:07 IST)

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