12/02/2011, 00.00
INDIA
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Karnataka, ritual that forces Dalits to roll in Brahmin leftovers ends

Practiced to prevent skin diseases, "made snas" is over 400 years old. Unnecessary protests of activists to abolish the ritual, considered inhumane by many and a way to feed the caste discrimination.
Subrahmanya (AsiaNews) – In the midst of controversies, the "Made Snana", has concluded at the Kukke Subrahmanya Temple in Mangalore (Karnataka): the Hindu ritual in which the Dalits have to roll over on banana leaves spread on the ground, used by the Brahmins for their meals. 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.

At the beginning of the ritual, on 28 November, KS 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 Shivaramu 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.

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 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, ed) defeated leprosy 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. (NC)

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