Temple priests want Diwali puja with animal sacrifice

#INDIA: As Tripura in the north east observed their first ritual slaughter-free Diwali on Sunday. This has been met with concern by the temple priests and devotees at Tripurasundari Temple.

The Tripura Sundari Temple at Udaipur, the erstwhile capital of Tripura, is one of the 51 Hindu Shaktipeethas. It is considered one of the holiest Hindu shrines of the country and attracts over 200,000 devotees every year on Deepavali.

Devotees who frequent the temple say they are concerned as this would make their age-old rituals incomplete following a High Court order banning animal sacrifice in temples.

Tripurasundari Temple’s head priest Chandan Chakraborty said the Puja is done in the name of the King. “Animal sacrifice or ritual slaughter (Boli) is a part of the Puja process. The Court order didn’t give us time to finish sacrificing animals already pledged by devotees to their Goddess. They are returning dejected,” he said, adding how they were doing an ‘Angaheen’ (incomplete) puja now.

The altar (stocks) was removed two days before Diwali, enraging the priests, who see it as a transgression on their religious authority.

Legend has it

According to Tripura Rajmala, the royal chronicle of Tripura’s Manikya kings, Maharaja Dhanya Manikya Bahadur constructed the temple in 1501 after getting a ‘Swapnadesh’ or divine order from the Supreme Mother or ‘Aadishakti’ in his dream.

Diwali festival at this temple had some makeover this year. Tripurasundari music and dance festival, which sported a variety of ethnic dances and musical performances since last 10 years, was dropped. Instead, a ‘mangal-arati’ with 1,000 devotees was organised in front of Kalyansagar – a pond excavated by the king after building this temple.

A ‘mangal-arati’ with 1,000 devotees was organised in front of Kalyansagar – a pond excavated by the king after building this temple.
A ‘mangal-arati’ with 1,000 devotees was organised in front of Kalyansagar – a pond excavated by the king after building this temple.

National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers at Diwali Mela this year, said banning animal sacrifice has hurt sentiments of people. “Nearly everyone who comes here is a devotee. They have veneration and respect in them. Stopping it doesn’t seem like a good idea,” they said.

Satya Das, a 60-year-old devotee, said animal sacrifice might be unsavoury to some but stopping it didn’t guarantee everlasting life to the animals. “If you can’t stop indiscriminate slaughtering across the state, how come animal sacrifice in temples was stopped? This is not right,” he said.

There were those who thought this animal sacrifice was fanaticism. “We live in a modern world. Ritual slaughter started as anthropological transition from hunting to domesticated life. Unnecessary brutality in the name of religion is not acceptable now. Calling for revival of boli is religious vigilantism,” said a government employee, who didn’t wish to be named.

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