TIRUCHY: The controversy over the alleged revival of the Dharmapuram mutt's 'pattina pravesam', a practice of carrying the Adheenam on a palanquin, after it was stopped in the 1960s has become a talking point in all arenas of Tamil society, including the Assembly.
While supporters of the ritual are claiming that it is a centuries-old practice and cannot be stopped, social activists say the practice is against human rights.
The mutt head's 'pattina pravesam' is normally held following a 10-day Guru Pooja to worship the Guru Gnanasambandha, who established the Dharmapuram mutt in 1561. On the eleventh day, the mutt's head will be carried on a palanquin through the four streets around the mutt. The manual labourers of the mutt, who live on these streets situated on the mutt's premises, are said to be carrying the palanquin.
Members of Dravidar Kazhagam were opposed to the practice from the 1960s. The Mayiladuthurai unit of the Dravidar Kazhagam adopted a resolution in its meeting in 1962 against the practice and sent it to the mutt seeking attention.
Citing this, Kali Poongundran, deputy president of DK and native of Mayiladuthurai, said "When the protest was announced in 1962, the then Kundrakudi Adigal intervened and persuaded the Dharmapuram mutt head to abandon the practice. It has not been conducted for more than five decades. Now, they are trying to revive it."
After becoming the 27th head of Dharmapuram mutt in 2019, Shri Masilamani Desiga
Gnanasambandha Swamigal was reportedly carried on a palanquin at Dharmapuram. However, when he visited Thirupanandal mutt in 2020, a planned palanquin event was cancelled due to the opposition. The Adheenam walked instead. Now, the Mayiladuthurai RDO has issued a ban order for the event scheduled for May 22.
T Jayaraman, a former history professor at Mayiladuthurai AVC College, said he has been living in the town for several decades, but never personally witnessed or heard of the palanquin custom. "It was stopped decades ago. The practice was only residuals of the bygone feudalistic society. What is the point in reaffirming caste supremacy?" Jayaraman asked.
The mutt, however, is claiming that it is not a public event. P Kothandaraman, general manager of the mutt and its temples, said, "We would like to stress two points. First, there is no public participation in the palanquin event. Second, the event is to be held on the mutt's own properties. Overall, it is an internal affair. About 50 to 60 families reside on the land belonging to mutt and also carry out farming on the lands belonging to the mutt. Out of their reverence towards the Adheenam, they themselves volunteer to carry the palanquin. They only carry the palanquin of gods during festivals at mutt
When asked about whether the palanquin custom was continuing without break, Kothandaraman said there was no break except during the lockdown. However, when asked to send photographs of the past events, he could not trace pictures of the event happening in the past few decades.
When that was pointed out, he said all the Adheenams of the Dharmapuram mutt have taken part in the 'pattina pravesam' without any break. Sources said these family members submitted a signed petition to the Adheenam that they were willing to participate in the ritual and pleaded to go ahead with the
Meanwhile, sources said the Adheenam of Dharmapuram mutt and the management are currently busy with the arrangements for the mutt's temple at Kuthalam, which is scheduled for May 8. Hence, The Adheenam is likely to take a call on the matter in next few days.