Thursday, December 11, 2008

makara jyothi -divine fraud

makara jyothi divine fraud
Makara Jyothi is Man-made: Priest’s Confession and a Minister’s Summersault
It is reported that the fraud behind the ‘divine light’ (rather, ‘divine fraud’) of Makara Jyothi at the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala had been perpetrated by the authorities of Sabarimala temple with the active support of various departments of Government of Kerala (including the state police) upon the credulous devotees for decades. We narrated in detail the story of the successful attempt made by the rationalists in 1981 to expose this massive fraud. The rationalists photographed the entire sequence of events leading to the very lighting of the ‘divine’ Jyothi. We also brought to the attention of our readers the expose made by the television news channel NDTV 24 X 7 on 11 January 2007, when its correspondent, Rajesh Ramachandran, filed a report from Ponnambalamedu itself with appropriate visuals. (The readers may recall the myth prevalent among the Sabarimala devotees that Ponnambalamedu is the abode of Lord Ayyappa and is not accessible to human beings).
Unfortunately, the reports of none of these exposes reached the teeming multitude that throng the hill shrine every season; especially those devotees belonging to the states other than Kerala. The governments (both the Left and the non-Left), with their eyes on the huge revenue brought into the state by the devotees, continued to perpetrate this fraud, season after season, year after year. Since 1982 this fraud has been committed under heavy police protection. The rationalist activists who attempted to visit the place again in 1982 and later were roughed up by the police. The lighting of the Makara Jyothi also resulted in heavy human casualties at Sabarimala itself. In 1999, for instance, 52 devotees were killed in a stampede while witnessing, to use the eminent historian Dr. Rajan Gurukkal’s pithy epithet, the “state sponsored magic”.
Priest’s confession
Now, for the first time the Sabarimala priests themselves have come out with the truth. On 28 May 2008, Kantararu Maheswararu Thantri, the head priest of Sabarimala, said in a press statement that there was nothing divine in the “Jyothi” and that it was man-made. The immediate back ground to this belated confession was the violent protests witnessed in Kerala against all kinds of godmen and other spiritual quacks following the recent arrest of Santhosh Madhavan alias Swami Amritachaithanya, a self-styled godman. The media, which shamelessly promoted this ‘miracle’ for all these years and refused to give any coverage to rationalists’ attempts to expose the fraud, has now started to come out with the truth.
Unfortunately, even while reluctantly coming out with the facts, the temple priest tried to further befuddle the readers and the devotees rather than to clarify the issues. The thantri in his press statement said that the devotees confused Makra Jyothi with Makara Vilakku, and that Makara Jyothi is a star that appears on the sky whereas Makara Vilakku is man-made. What has been called Makara Jyothi is in fact Makara Vilakku, which is man-made whereas Makara Jyothi is a star appearing in the sky, which is still a miracle! Confused? That precisely is what they want. Confound the devotees, retain the flock and rake in more money.
There has never been any confusion so far, not only among the devotees but among the Sabarimal authorities too. All the books and reports published by the Sabarimala authorities themselves unequivocally claimed that this “miraculous” light indeed was Makara Jyothi. The media - print, radio, and television - has always referred to this flicker of light as Makara Jyothi. The term Makara Vilakku has generally been used to refer to the whole festival being celebrated in Sabarimala in the month of, as per Malayalam calendar, Makaram. In Malayalam, the Makara Jyothi also is sometimes called Makara Vilakku. But there was never any confusion as to what Makara Jyothi was, until the priest came out with the press statement. Do a ‘google’ search on Makaraj jyothi and it will directly take to this “miracle”!

The question to be asked in this context is why the temple authorities did not clarify earlier for the benefit of devotees the difference between the ‘real’ Makara Jyothi and the so-called Makara Vilakku. Why this sudden realization now? The answer is the priests, the Dewaswom Board, and the government can continue to assert that the Makara Jyothi is still a miracle, though they now will be pointing to a different direction, towards a star! It is you, the devotees, who made the mistake and we, the authorities, are pristine innocent! You, fools, now look at the star, a miracle and continue to fill our coffers!
The complicity of media
The media do not fare better. While lambasting the government for misleading the devotees for years, the media does not bother to devote even a line for self-criticism. Don’t the media have a responsibility to explain to their readers why they had not sent their investigative reporters to unearth this monumental fraud? Don’t they have a duty to inform their readers why they had blacked out all these years well documented exposes made by the rationalists? Is it not a simple truth that it was with the active support of the media that this fraud has grown into gargantuan proportions that it is today?
The media not only refuse to admit their complicity in perpetuating the fraud, but continue to parrot the absurd claims made by the temple authorities. The New Indian Express, for instance, states in their editorial that, to quote, “two more connected events still evade scientific explanation: Just before the Vilakku appears a star rises in the sky and a kite hovers over the temple!” (See NIE, dated 29.05.2008). The truth is there is no miracle in these. The star that the editorial refers to, can be seen not only from Sabarimala but from elsewhere too. It does not appear just on the day of Makara jyothi, it is always there. As to the hovering of a kite, kites are a common species of birds abundant in these parts and they are normally attracted by filth for which Sabarimala is notorious. Moreover, kites can easily be tamed (the readers may note that kites are very efficiently used in falconry in the Middle East) and hence it is always possible for the temple authorities to release a trained kite right on time for the devotees to shout hysterically “Swamiye Saranamayyppa”.
Minister’s Summersault
The most pathetic statements came from G. Sudhakaran, the state Minister for temple affairs and a CPI (M) MLA. He not only repeated the statements made by the temple priest to deliberately befuddle the people, but gave his own justification for the perpetration of the fraud -”Makara jyothi and Makara vilakku are not the same things, the latter of which is man-made. Religion could not be subjected to rational analysis and our government did not want to go with the rationalists on this issue” {Mathrubhumi daily, Kannur edition, 29.05.2008). It is this same gentleman who told NDTV just a little more than a year before that, to quote, “nobody has examined it, government never inquired into it, we are not planning to inquire into that because that is related to the faith of devotees for hundreds of years”.
How has the minister suddenly got enlightened about the human-hand behind the “miracle” which “nobody has ever examined”? Why did he feign ignorance about sending a posse of policemen by his own government to guard the creation of this fraud by employees of various government departments, including his own, on a land owned by the government? What is in this fraud that takes it beyond the purview of a rational scrutiny as the minister claims? Can we be faulted if we suspect collusion between the priest and the ministry in giving a press statement deliberately to confuse and continue to defraud millions of people?

Monday, December 8, 2008

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