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Hindu women come up with a unique response to the Kerala Police’s instruction to remove saffron flags at Vellayani Bhadrakali Temple

After Kerala police banned saffron decoration during Kaliyoottu Mahotsavam at Vellayani Bhadrakali temple, Hindu women wore saffron clothes, and the devotees set up a police post using saffron fabric

A day after a Hindu temple in Communist-ruled Kerala was directed by the police to not use saffron decoration during a festival, the Hindu devotees have adopted unique ways to oppose the ‘saffron ban’. This comes after the local police visited the Vellayani Bhadrakali temple located on the southern outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and instructed the temple authorities to avoid saffron-coloured buntings, flags and other fabric on the premises for the upcoming Kaliyoottu Mahotsavam claiming that it will create a ‘law and order situation’.

As a mark of protest, several Hindu women wore traditional saree coupled with saffron blouses and suits with saffron dupattas. 

Earlier, in protest against the police instruction, devotees had set up a tent for a police post for the festival using saffron fabric. The temple authorities also have refused to remove the saffron flags and buntings. The devotees have alleged that the police are helping the anti-Hindu elements in the state.

In the meanwhile, the Kerala Police have written to the Vellayani Devi Temple authorities stating that they will be taking strict legal action against anyone who used saffron colour to decorate the temple premises during the festival. The police are claiming that decorating the temple premises using saffron buntings and flags will create law and order situation, and therefore instructed the temple authorities to use multicoloured buntings and flags.

The Vellayani Bhadrakali temple is situated next to Vellayani Lake, a wetland that draws a significant number of pilgrims during the Kaliyoottu Mahotsavam, which is held once every three years. It is managed by the Travancore Devaswom Board of the Kerala government, and it has a number of committees that are chosen annually by residents of the Kalliyoor panchayat nearby.

The triennial festival is scheduled to start on February 14, 2023, and will be the first one to be held in the last six years. The 2020 festival had to be interrupted due to the Wuhan virus pandemic. However, this year’s enthusiasm and preparations for the festival have also been dampened due to the unnecessary issue that has cropped up from the side of the local government. 

The Kerala Police have demanded that the temple’s administrators switch out their customary saffron-coloured buntings (torons), flags and other fabric for multicoloured ones since they worry that lining the temple’s approach road with solely saffron-coloured decorations might cause a law-and-order issue.

The Vellayani Bhadrakali temple authorities are enraged as it is blatantly disrespectful to religious sensibilities to have government officials interfere in a custom that the temple has maintained for centuries. At first, the temple administration thought that the instruction was regarding the ban on plastic flags, and therefore they used cloth buntings and flags. But later they found out that the objection was on the saffron colour.

Rageesh Kumar, the Nemom Station House Officer (SHO) and Inspector of Police made the demand while being escorted by a sizable police force. When the temple officials inquired as to why the saffron flags had to be changed, they were told that the police had received a telephone complaint over the colour of the torons and as a result, wanted them changed to multi-coloured ones to prevent a law-and-order issue.

Even though the Kerala Police has cited law and order concerns as the reason behind giving the ‘instructions’ to avoid saffron flags, there is politics involved in the matter. 

According to a Swarajya report, the Vellayani temple has been targeted for a few years now as it is the stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Vellayani temple lies within the boundary of Nemom assembly and Veteran BJP leader O Rajagopal had polled heavily in this segment in the 2014 general elections. Further, the temple lies in the Kalliyoor panchayat, the area which the BJP attained in the local body polls of 2015 and 2020.

About Kaliyoottu Festival

A ceremonial art form known as Kaliyoottu festival is celebrated in Southern Kerala, particularly in the Thiruvananthapuram district, in honour of the goddess Bhadrakali. The sacred battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika is commemorated at the festival. The Thottam Pattu is one of Kaliyoottu’s principal rituals. It requires 48 days for singing the Bhadrakali Thottam Pattu entirely.

The Kaliyoottu festival’s most significant rites include Kalamkaval, Nagaroottu, Uchabali, Dikkubali, Paranettu, and Nilathil Poru, which marks the festival’s conclusion. On the ninth day of Medam, the Paranettu will take place at the Vellayani devi temple.

In the ceremony called Kalamkaval, the chief priest wears a big murti-like on his headgear and dances in a trance-like state until he falls unconscious. The ritual known as Nagaroottu is carried out prior to Uchabali in order to appease the Nagas or serpents.

The uchabali ritual consists of 64 gestures, such as the mathsyam, sampannam, chathurasramam, sarpa mudra, and jyoti mudra. A majestic crown made of coconut palms is fixed at the location of the ritual, which is performed at midnight.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
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