Made Snana: Call to end oppressive ritual targeting Dalits

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Made Snana
Made Snana: Abominable and superstitious practice.
Made Snana
Made Snana: Abominable and superstitious practice.

AN ancient and superstitious ritual followed by a group of Hindus has drawn condemnation from several quarters.

The Karnataka Komu Souhardha Vedike (KKSV) has urged the Government to issue an ordinance banning ‘Made Snana’ at all temples across the state.

‘Made Snana’ is a Hindu ritual in which the Dalits (lower caste Hindus) have to roll over on banana leaves spread on the ground, used by the Brahmins (upper caste Hindus) for their meals.

“Rolling on soiled plantain leaves used by Brahmins is a superstition and an unscientific ritual and it has no relation to religion too. The main intention of holding such rituals is to continue the ancient caste system and to highlight to supremacy of Brahmins,” KKSV state president K L Ashok was quoted as saying in The Times of India. Awareness should be created against the ritual, he added.

Each year for three days, more than 3,500 devotees participate in the controversial and, according to many, humiliating practice which feeds caste discrimination against Dalits.

On November 28, K S Shivaramu, president of the Karnataka State Hindulida Vargagala Jagrutha Vedike, along with activists for the rights of Dalits had asked the state government to abolish this practice, calling it ‘inhumane’ and ‘unscientific.’ Moreover, he added that the continuing of such a ritual ‘in the name of tradition and religion is just a way to feed certain superstitions.’

In response, some devotees attacked the protesters. The police prevented violence degenerating, but the ritual continued undisturbed, AsiaNews reported.

The “Made Snana” is a ‘haraki’ (offering to God in exchange for the granting of a wish), practiced to prevent skin diseases. This particular form of Haraki is held every year during the feast of Champa Shashti and Dalits are expected to roll on banana leaves containing scraps of food consumed by the Brahmins earlier. Those who practice the Made Snana must eat frugal meals for a week. After serving lunch to the Brahmins, a temple priest sprinkles holy water on the leaves and breaks a coconut as an offering to the deity. Another priest of the temple heralds the beginning of the ritual ringing a bell.

The AsiaNews report said the ritual is over 400 years old. According to legend Samba, the son of Krishna, during the Dwapura Yuga (according to Hinduism, the third of four eras of evolution of life) conquered leprosy by rolling on banana leaves, on which his devotees had consumed food. In 1979 the ‘Made Snana’ was abolished, but was soon reinstated because of the protests of the devotees.

 Meanwhile, Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University N Prabhu Dev went on the record to condemn the practice as abominable and uncivilized.

On Dec 2, hundreds of students belonging to Bangalore University’s Postgraduate and Ph.D Students’ Association (PPSA) participated in the protest, forcing closure of all departments and disrupting classes for nearly three hours.

“It is inhuman to roll over leftover food of the Brahmins. We demand the arrest of the rowdy priests at Kukke Subrahmanya for the assault on Shivaramu and Vijayakumar,” said PPSA president G. Govindaiah.

Registrar B C Mylarappa, who accepted a memorandum from the students, said, “Today’s protest is the result of the democratic society we live in. ‘Made Snana’ is an insult to humanity and hampers human rights.”

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