News Karnataka
Thursday, October 06 2022

Should We Dam Rollover on Leftovers?

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Such dupes are men, to custom, and so prone
To reverence what is ancient and can plead
A curse of long observance for its use,
That even servitude, the worst of all ills,
Because delivered down from sire to son,
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing! –
William Cowper, English poet (1731-1800).

These lines reflect the strong hold customs have on the poor and uneducated.  But, even as the worm turns, Dalit leaders now question customs which humiliate their class. One such instance which has come into focus once again is given below.

Perhaps for the first time in the last 400 years, urulu Seva /Made Snana – (“bathing” in leftover food), a religious ritual, is being opposed over the last one decade, by Dalit and backward community organisations. It is the practice of non-Brahmin devotees rolling on the plantain leaves on which Brahmins would have eaten their food, under the belief that it will cure them of skin ailments. The ritual has been performed year after year at the Kukke Subramanya temple in Sullya taluk of Dakshina Kannada district. The devout perform this on special occasions, like the annual shasthi in the temple premises (horangana – outside courtyard).

Interestingly, Stanley G. Pinto wrote, in his report on the subject in The Times of India (9-12-10), the educated too offer this seva without any qualms. He wrote that the reference to this practice is found even in Skanda Purana for ridding ailments associated with ‘naga dosha’ like leprosy and other skin ailments believed to be the curse of the serpent god. The temple, which is a favourite with scores of celebrities, shot into fame after Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar visited it in 2006 for ridding his naga dosha.

Karnataka Rajya Hindulidavaragala Jagruta Vedike and Dalit Hindulida Alpasankyata Samanvaya Vedike of Mysore opposed the ritual of non-Brahmin devotees conducting urulu sevea Activists of Dalit and backward castes organisations from Mysore, Kadagu and Sullya protested in Subramanya against what they described as “inhuman, uncivilized” ritual forced upon the non-Brahmins by the priestly class for several centuries now.

Reacting to this, then Karnataka Endowment Minister, the late VS Acharya, termed the practice of Made Snana as innocuous. He said that the practice was a matter of belief. “Those who believe (in the practice) can take part in it and those who don’t can stay away. Nobody can question the belief part of it”. When compared to other beliefs to subjugate people of the lower castes, Acharya retorted, “Even a sashtanga namaskar (prostrating in reverence) may be objected to by some. No harm is caused to anybody by Made Snana. It’s innocuous”.

Manual scavengers believed that it is their fate to carry night soil on their head and, in any case, it ensures their livelihood. Has the state or society any role in liberating them from this inhuman practice? It is in this context that Alfred Tennyson, English poet laureate (1809-1892) had said:

The old order changeth yielding place to new.

And god fulfills himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

About author

John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his

website Cerebral Challenger) offering a platform to discuss issues of current and abiding interest. His latest book, Corruption – India’s Painful Crawl to Lokpal, published in USA, can be ordered online from Amazon, Flipkart, etc. – and, in Mangalore, from Biblios and Gerosa.

For more details about him key in “John B. Monteiro” on Google search

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