NAGAPATTINAM: The sandal smearing ceremony for the 463rd annual Kanthuri Santhanakoodu festival at Nagore Dargah is to take place on Tuesday. The dargah management says the free sandalwood provided by the State government is less in quantity this year, as was the case last year. In fact, the government has provided half the amount of sandalwood it used to provide in years up to 2018.
Along with the sandal smearing ceremony, the Santhanakoodu procession would take place on Tuesday. This year, the government has provided 20 kg of sandalwood compared to the 40 kg provided from 2013 to 2018. Dargah manager Jahabar Hussain said, “We have completed the process of grinding into paste the sandalwood we have received. We have written to the government requesting more sandalwood and hoping for it to be supplied at the last minute. We were told more sandalwood could not be provided due to shortage.”
The sandal to be used for the Santhankoodu procession and sandal smearing ceremony is Jaipokal Class 2 Sandal, which come from the reserve forests of Sathyamangalam in Erode district. The State government started providing free sandalwood for the festival from 2013 to prevent illegal procurement and supplied 40 kg till 2018. It then abruptly reduced the quantity to just 17 kg in 2019 and now it is down to 20 kg. Speaking to TNIE, a senior Forest department official said, “Lots of sandalwood trees are still under threat from illegal loggers and smugglers. State government stocks have fallen substantially, which is why we could not provide more for the festival.”
The sandal paste would be smeared on the tombs of saints on Tuesday night and distributed to devotees and pilgrims who throng the dargah. “The number of devotees and pilgrims visiting the dargah during the festival has been increasing through the years. How will reducing the quantity help the cause of distribution of sandal paste to several lakh devotees? There would be a heavy rush grab the pinch of sandal,” said Syed Mohammed Khalifa Sahib, hereditary seer of Nagore Dargah.