Karnataka was among the first states in the country to propose an anti-superstition bill, but on 6 June, despite the protests from rationalists, the JD(S)-Congress government ordered hundreds of temples to preform poojas (prayer rituals) for a better monsoon.
The state is suffering from severe drought, with 156 of the 176 Taluks declared as such. Such is the severity in the state that more than 2,999 villages across the state are provided drinking water through private tankers.
Rationalists are opposed to the fact that hundreds of temples have been asked to spend up to Rs 10,000 to conduct prayers with the total cost running into lakhs of rupees, a sum they believe could be given directly to the drought-affected population.
‘It’s Tradition,’ Says Water Resources Minister
Karnataka water resources minister DK Shivakumar says offering prayers for rain is a long-held tradition in the state. Hundreds of temples in the state offered prayers seeking good monsoon following a government orders on 6 June. pic.twitter.com/wCttHbkfst— Arun Dev (@ArunDev1) June 6, 2019
Karnataka water resources minister DK Shivakumar, who performed prayers at the Rishyashruna Bringeshwara temple in Chikkamagaluru, defended the decision claiming offering such prayers is a tradition in the state.
"“There is a long-held belief in the state that if you pray at the Rishyashrunga Bringeshwara temple you get good rains. With this in mind, our Muzrai department decided to hold prayers as a precautionary measure to get good rains this year, because the state faced severe drought.” " - DK Shivakumar, water resources minister.
Talking to reporters, one of the priests said three different kinds of prayers are being offered. “Today we conducted Varuna pooja and Varuna homa. Then we sat in water-filled pots to conduct Prajanya Jappa. Thanks to this, lords Shiva and Varuna will ensure good rain and we might see results as early as today,” said SR Dikshit, head priest of Someshwara temple in Usloor, one of the temples where such prayers were conducted.
Each Temple Spends Rs 10,000
Officials of the Muzrai department, which controls the temples in the state, confirmed such an order was issued. they however said the department is not aware how many temples are offering prayers.
There are around 37,000 temples coming under the department. As per the government orders, only those temples ‘with adequate resources’ have to undertake the prayers. Temples in Karnataka have been divided into three categories – A, B and C – based on their financial capability.
According to sources, there are 450 temples in the first two categories, which are considered financially well-off. “If only these temples participated in the prayers, the total expenditure for the project would be around Rs 45 lakh. However, more temples are expected to have taken part in the prayers,” sources told The Quint.
Where is the Scientific Temper? Ask Rationalists
Talking to The Quint rationalist and poet Chandrashekar Patil, who was one of the activists who drafted the state’s anti-superstition bill called the government order ‘deplorable’. “There is a term in our constitution – ‘scientific temperament’, and whatever is going in our state is against the spirit of the constitution. This is deplorable. It is unfortunate that our politicians irrespective of their party affiliations, go by these superstitious practices.”
Another rationalist Narendra Nayak said: “This is the dichotomy of a democracy that despite the country having 21st century technology, we have 15th century mindsets.”
On Thursday morning, a group of rationalists held a protest in Bengaluru’s Chamarajapet against the government’s decision as well.
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