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​Made Snana: Devotees call it catharsis while intellectuals call it atrocity

Mangaluru : Indians believe in the eternal truth that God incarnates in every yuga. Every devotee practicing their respective religion follows certain ancient rituals with deep faith. These include fulfilling vows, taking oaths, making promises, inflicting pains on the body and offering money to the temple hundis.
 
One such ancient practice, which has gained popularity and oppositions in same measures is 'Made Snana' which is being performed at Kukke Shri Subrahmanya temple. The ritual, which involves devotees rolling over the dining leaves left after partaking meals by ‘Brahmins’ is widely opposed by certain intellectuals and like-minded people.


 
Even as the Karntaka High Court and the Supreme Court have vindicated the ritual stating that it is to do with the sentiments of the people, a bunch of people opposing the rituals on the lame argument that Dalits are pressurised by the temple authorities to perform the ritual, which is against human dignity, have only been fueling more confusion and chaos.
 
The controversial ‘Made Snana’ has an historical background. The concept of Made Snana finds mention in Skanda Purana. Almost 6,000 years ago Samba (Krishna's son) who was cursed by various sages visited Subrahmanya to get rid of his curse. After taking a dip in Kumaradhara river, he performed Made Snana on the food eaten by sages and was freed from the curses, says the mythology.


 
Since then the rituals has been an integral part of the belief system in the region and devotees in pain vow to god to perform the ritual if their wishes are fulfilled.
 
However, off late the ancient system was caught in controversy when organisations drew flak claiming that the ritual was against the dignity of backward classes.


 
The point to be noted here is that the Malekudiya community members (a Scheduled Tribe) who perform various chores at the temple are themselves against the view of banning the ritual. Calling the ritual to be a connection between them and the Lord, the Malekudiyas say that move of banning the ritual may unleash havoc.
 
The Malekudiyas of the region refuting the charges of the intellectuals that atrocities are inflicted on the Dalits in the name of the ritual, say that no dalit is put on a gun point by anybody to perform the ritual.

“People from Brahmin communities and people hailing from all other communities perform this ritual out of their own wish. It is a sort of cathartic communication with the supreme divine for many. The ritual should never be gauged in terms of logic because it is a subjective matter governed by sentiments and belief system of the people performing it,” says Rajya Adivasi Budakattu Hitharakshana Vedike president Bhaskar Bendodi who has been fighting a legal battle to protect the ritual.
 
He questions the intention of the intellectuals who remain silent throughout the year and plunge into action against the ritual only when the temple is all set to organise it during three days of ‘Shashti’ festival.

 
This year, the ritual is all set to be held from November 25 to 27 and Bendodi says that it hurts to see the temple become focal point of controversy with some mislead intellectuals creating pandemonium on the pious days, marring the sanctity of the temple.
 
Brahmins find solace
 
Making all arguments of the intellectuals that only lower class individuals are made to perform ‘Made Snana’, falls flat when people like Moorthy, a photographer by profession and a Brahmin by birth talk of their experiences and belief on Made Snana.


 
“Made Snana is our religious heritage which we cannot change. Nobody has the right or authority to stop us from performing our practices. The associations who are protesting against it are not aware of it completely. Made Snana was initially practiced by the Brahmins and later others followed it. People believe it to be a holy process as it heals various skin diseases, health problems. Couples who do not have children too come here and perform the ritual seeking God’s benevolence of fertility,” he says adding that like him the Shivalli Brahmins who are running hotels and some who are engaged in other works too have been performing Made Snana out of their belief over the last several years.
 
The supporters of the ritual have only one question to ask the intellectuals as to how a ritual can be called an atrocity on a particular community when there is no force imposed on anybody to perform it.
 
However, the entire unwarranted controversy has left the Malekudiya community divided over the issue, which too can be a dangerous development because at a juncture of time when the tribals need to be united to fight several other important issues concerning them, the tribals fighting over Made Snana at the behest of the ‘seasonal intellectuals’ can be devastating.

The other side of the story
 
After Supreme Court, on Wednesday November 19, even the High Court of Karnataka gave a historic judgement stating that Made Snana will be held at Kukke Subramanya Temple, that too in its original form without any modifications.
 
However, the people who have moved to court against the ritual still call the two victories of the supporters to be a ‘small victory’ against the casteist ritual.
 
President of the Karnataka Backward Classes Awareness Forum K.S. Shivaram says that they oppose the concept of Made Snana and Yede Snana both on equal measures and want the abolition of the system completely.


 
“Both the rituals reinforce the belief of supremacy and purity of the Brahmins.
 
The offerings are, after all, made only by Brahmin priests. Traditionally practiced Made Snana is inhumane and represented the crassest form of blind belief. Superstitions like these, where the priestly class is reinforced as being superior should be prohibited” he said adding that the organisation will continue their awareness campaigns and protests against the rituals.
 
Yede Snana discarded by HC
 
Yede Snana, an alternative to Made Snana, was suggested by Vishveshwa Teertha Swamiji of Pejawar Math. The devotees roll over the yede or prasadam which is offered to the deity in the yede snana system as against the food leftovers. Divisional Bench of the Karnataka High Court, on November 19 gave its nod for the ritual in the original form and discarded the concept of Yede Snana.
 
Responding to the same, Pejawara Swamiji said that he had suggested ‘Yede Snana’ only to ensure that the people would arrive at an amicable system of the ritual. “My intention was to keep the sentiments of the devotees unhurt. But the High court has rejected my suggestion and approved Made Snana. I prefer to stay out of this issue,” he said.
 
Contradictions
 
On the other, there is a huge silent chunk of people living in Kukke Subramanya area who suspect that the entire crisis surrounding the Made Snana has been built by individuals with a well described agenda, because Kukke Subramanya temple is the richest temple of the state.
 
They say that it is quite surprising that the intellectuals and the Made Snana opposers have kept quiet with regards to a religious ritual called ‘Uruluseve’, where the devotees roll on the main road from Kumaradhara Snanaghatta to temple premises covering almost three kms stretch as a vow. The devotees literally roll over cow dung, urine, mud, waste and dirt, but that is not considered against human dignity. The intellectuals and progressive individuals have been only targeting Made Snana with a purpose.
 
However now the government as well as the intellectuals needs to look into the ritual and analyze it before coming to a conclusion because at the end of the day, no logic stands a chance in front of emotions and sentiments and it is best advised to keep logic away from issues attached to religious matters.

By : Wilma Serrao

Pics & Video : Manjunath Bhat
 

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