In the name of God, end this fraud

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By R Shankar, India Syndicate
MSN News

17 January 2011: Why can’t the Kerala Government, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) that runs the Sabarimala temple be booked for cheating, negligence and murder?


For years since 1950, the official machinery on Kerala has been claiming that the light that appears three times on Ponnambalamedu hill opposite the Sabarimala shrine every January 14 was a divine one. The official AIR and the Doordarshan too have abetted in this transmission of falsehood. Even if the Kerala Government, the KSEB and the TDB deny that they had ever made any public pronouncements on the authenticity of the origin of the divine light, they can still be accused of aiding and promoting falsehood.


It was this silence of the Kerala authorities that has been resulting in attracting lakhs of pilgrims to witness the Makarajyothi every Jan 14; the authorities have been using this `divine fraud’ to pocket huge revenue for the TDB, the government, eateries, and the cash-strapped transport sector.


If this is not cheating, what is? Section 420 IPC says "whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another person, is said to do that thing "dishonestly".


It was this cheating that led to the death of 102 pilgrims on Friday night when they were returning from Pullumedu after witnessing the Jyothi.


Forget cheating, why not book the authorities for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and for negligence and abetment to murder?


The Karnataka Government has openly accused the Kerala government of gross negligence while dealing with the pilgrims that led to the death of 102 Ayyappa devotees.


The government and the crime branch team may pin the blame of the tragedy on a hapless jeep driver or an autorickshaw guy and sweep the larger issue of cheating in the name of god under the carpet. Will the authorities now openly declare that the divine light has no divine halo around it and that it is lit by a handful of KSEB officials? This will not result in Ayyappa devotees not coming to the shrine; they will still do, but the numbers can be managed. The earnings may dip, but what the temple and the government earn would atleast be honest money, not blood-stained or coins that stink of cheating.


Many in Kerala know the truth about the light and hence they keep away. Only a few still trek to see the light. Most pilgrims are from Andhra Pradesh. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka - pilgrims who are told that the divine light will transport them to Moksha.


The authorities cannot perpetuate this fraud in the name of god. It is time that the government and the temple authorities come out with the truth about the divine light.


The stampede at Pullumedu should come as an eye-opener and an opportunity for truth to come out - truth that embodies Ayyappa, the presiding deity at Sabarimala.


Recently, the Kerala government and the temple authorities admitted for the first time the Jyothi was not a celestial occurrence but a fire lighted by men.



Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran, known for his loud mouth, had openly said: "I was present on the Makaravillukku day at the Sabarimala last season. I saw the celestial star and it is at that very time that Makaravilakku is lighted. There is no doubt about it that it is lighted by the men.’’


Days after he had made the statement, the minister was asked not to open his mouth further on the issue. Hence the controversy around the divine light died down.


Rahul Easwar, grandson of Sabarimala chief priest, later said: "It’s a misunderstanding in the mind of misinformed people not informed devotees. Makarajyothi is different and Makaravillkku is different that’s why there are two names. Makarajyothi is a celestial star while Makaravillakku is symbolic lighting of lamp in place called Ponambalamedu, where there was a temple earlier.’’
An embarrassed Devaswom Board, which administers the temple and earns crores during the Jyothi season, said it had absolutely no role in lighting Makaravillaku as it happens in a jungle, which is not under the Board’s control.


So, why not the authorities make a clean breast of the facts surrounding the divine light? Makara Jyothi (Makaravillaku) - the so-called divine light (some call it divine flame) flickers three times atop Ponnambalamedu hill opposite the Sabarimala shrine.


Critics, including a few Ayyappa devotees, have of late questioned the appearance of the divine light. A few, who had studied the `phenomenon’ and got `evidence’, had come to the conclusion that there was nothing divine or mysterious about the light. The Ponnambalamedu is a thick forested area and is closely guarded by the State Forest Department and the Electricity Board. Nobody is allowed to go to the area.


Sources say that atop the Ponnambalamedu there was a small temple that was once the centre of worship of a few tribes who prayed and paid their respects to Ayyappa once a year by lighting camphor and wood. After the tribes vanished and were `consumed’ by modernisation, officials of the electricity board continued lighting huge amounts of camphor on Makara 1 or January 14 every year.
Now, sources say, the tribal temple has vanished and a huge concrete platform has been constructed. Huge heaps of camphor are put into a large bowl and lighted. Soon, the flames are extinguished using large wet sacks. After a few minutes, it is lit again and the process goes on for two more times.


Ponnambalamedu is about 4 Km away from the Sabarimala temple and very close to Kochupamba Power Substation which supplies power to Sabarimala. It is under the control of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB). There is just one rough road that leads to Ponnambalamedu and this is closely guarded by the Forest Department officials. Ponnambalamedu is at an elevation of 1170m above MSL and Sabarimala is just 544m - making the view of the Jyothi very clear.


While the Jyothi may be man-made, the appearance of `Garuda’ -- an eagle - is still a mystery. The eagle escorts the Thiruvaabharanam (the box that carries the ornaments for Ayyappa) from the royal palace in Pandalam and then vanishes. It comes back then the ornaments are taken from Sabarimala to Pandalam.


So why are the authorities keeping silent on the divine light. It is pure commerce. The State earns crores during the Sabarimala Jyothi pilgrimage season. According to the figures provided by the Devaswom, collections at the temple had crossed Rs.131 crore as of Thursday, while last season it was Rs.120 crore during the same period. All this may go up in flames if there is an official denial.
Commerce, fraud and divinity do not go together. It is time to bring divinity back to Sabarimala. It is also time to look into all miracles, miracle cures and strange `phenomena’ across all religions.



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Comments on this Article
santhosh, trivandrum Tue, January-18-2011, 12:34
I dont think the Kerala govt or other authorities would come up to reveal the truth behind the makara jyothi.The Governments of the neibouring states viz Tamilnadu, karnataka and Andra Pradesh should educate their devotees.
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