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Protest mounting against Elavoor `Thookkam'

By Our Staff Reporter

KOCHI, APRIL 11. With the Hind Navothana Prathishtan president, Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, reiterating his resolve to prevent the revival of the `Thookkam' at the Puthankavu Bhagavathi Temple, Elavoor, near Angamaly, the performance of the ritual scheduled on April 23 has triggered off a controversy.

The Swami said that he and other sanyasis of the Prathishtan would try to prevent the ritual by lying on the scaffold, which would be used for the ritual. According to the banned practice, the back of a person who was willing to perform `Thookkam' would be pierced with a hook and lifted up on a scaffold.

It was stopped 16 years ago following widespread protests against the ritual.

The Swami said that he would intensify the efforts against the revival of the evil.

The matter had to be resolved by law enforcing authorities, he said.

The Swami said that it was now for the district authorities to ensure that the efforts to revive the ritual were frustrated. He said that the "vow" that he would lay on the scaffold would be carried out at any cost.

He said the temple advisory committee, which wanted to revive the practice, had no right to say that they would perform the `Thookkam'.

In fact, the temple belonged to the Uramma Devaswom which was against the `Thookkam'.

He said that with the High Court dismissing as withdrawn a writ petition filed by the Temple Upadesaka Samithy, the Government could prevent the efforts to revive the `Thookkam' on the ground of "criminality, barbarism and anti-national''.

The `Thookkam' was stopped in 1987 and `Poomoodal' was being performed in lieu of `Thookkam'.

The present attempt at revival was an affront on the very temple institution, fraud on dharma and violation of the Constitution, which enjoined on everybody to uphold the composite cultural heritage of the country and adopt a rational and scientific attitude.

In fact, many tantris had made it clear that the ritual did not come under any tantric rite or ritual at all. The efforts to revive the `Thookkam' would only tarnish Hinduism and lead people to barbaric age.

`Thookkam' as planned: Kshethra samithy

Meanwhile, the organisers of the 'Thookkam' said the ritual would be held on April 23 as planned earlier. The Elavoor Kshethra Kshema Samithy leaders told a press conference here on Saturday that the decision to revive the centuries-old practice was taken by the devotees of the village.

They denied the charges that the ritual was crude and brutal.

The legend behind the ritual goes back to the ancient days when human sacrifice was performed at the temple once in a year.

It is believed that the human sacrifice was stopped at the order of the goddess herself as a mother pleaded with her to save her only son who was chosen as that year's victim.

The ritual of `Thookkam' thus replaced the human sacrifice.

The samithy move to revive the custom this year had been drawing widespread protests from many quarters including the Hindu Aikya Vedi. The vedi general secretary, Kummanam Rajasekharan, had declared that any move to perform the `Thookkam' would be stopped at any cost.

They claimed that the person performing the ritual would feel no discomfort, since a specially prepared oil was massaged on to the skin for 21 days before the ritual.

This oil and the massage together would help to strengthen and increase the elasticity of the skin and muscles, which will be pierced by the iron hook during the ritual.

There will be no bleeding while piercing the skin, they claimed.

The samithy leaders claimed that people who had performed the `Thookkam' up to nine times were still alive in the village.

It was a question of protecting the faith of a community, they argued.

When asked about the vedi's protests against the ritual, the samithy leaders said that it was an issue of ego clash. They said they were also workers of the vedi and that the vedi resentment was that it was not consulted while planning to revive the ritual.

If Mr. Rajasekharan was adamant about stopping the ritual, he should at first try to convince the people of Elavoor that the `Thookkam' was an obnoxious practice, they said.

The samithy leaders also denied the report that one person had died during the `Thookkam' some years ago as a result of the person performing the ritual falling from the iron hooks over another one.

The samithy leaders, Anil K. Nair and Soman Sreekanteswaram, participated in the press conference.

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