Aluva Shivarathri Manappuram
T Satisan, Kochi
Aluva Manappuram (since manal in Malayalam means sand, the reference is to sandy bank of the river) on the banks of Periyar river has been a divine pilgrimage spot for Hindus since time immemorial . One hundred fifty two acres of sandy bank, with a modest Shiva temple, attracts lakhs of believers on Sivarathri days every year. Sivarathri is an auspicious day for offering bali tharpan for the ancestors. People from all over Kerala throng the manappuram on those days. They do have darshan at Shiva temple and offer bali tharpan. Approximatey 6 to 7 lakh pilgrims are visiting manalppuram for this ritual every year. On top of this several lakhs come to manalppuram to participate in and enjoy the one month long trade fair, celebrations and illuminations. Periyar alias Poorna river is the same one which caresses Kaladi, the birth place of Adi Sankaracharya. Kaladi is a few miles away from manappuram. Such an established Hindu pilgrimage centre all on a sudden turned a “disputed” site couple of weeks before. Authorities of Aluva municipality permitted Indian Muslim Youth Movement to conduct their 3 day camp on the manappuram. When Hindu organisations protested against this action, the authorities maintained that only 13 acres of land are under the custody of Devaswom Board and the remaining land belongs to Aluva municipality. Hindu organizations staged protest marches and observed a days’ hartal in Ernakulam district. By that time the Muslim outfit had performed their programme and left. Now, the matter is in the court.
HIindu organisations argue that the whole land belongs to the temple. Therefore, they would not approve if land is made available for non Hindu programmes and purposes. They believe that the authorities’ stand to permit the land for non Hindu purposes and programmes is the kick off of a larger design to limit the Hindus’ rights within the temple land. The Shivarathri trade fair has been run by Aluva municipality since long; municipality had been paying the power charges for the fair’s illumination. But, 2005 onwards they passed the bucks to Devaswom Board despite enjoying the proceeds from the fair ! Believers donate (offer) bullocks to the temple and they used to live on manappuram without hindrance. And, 2008 onwards municipality has been auctioning these bulls at meat rate, that is, around Rs 65,000. When Hindu organisation protested they spent the proceeds came from bull sales for constructing comfort stations near municipal bus stand. Then they constructed a temporary bridge to cross the river from manappuram to Sri Krishna Tempe during Shivarathi days. And, they charged the commuters exorbitant rates for crossing the river. Again, Hindu Aikya Vedi and RSS were in the forefront of the protests. So, they reduced the rates a bit. The same time there were several attempts from the authorities’ side to encroach the manappuram. When famous Malayalam film maker Lohitha Das died, municipality decided to build a memorial for him; Hindu organisations opposed it saying that it was against the rituals of Temple; so the idea was dropped. Then comes Football Club of Kochi led by Congress fellow traveler and lucrative business man Shafi Mather. The municipality gave a good portion of manappuram for 2 years lease against a payment of Rs 7,000 per month. Municipality even made fencings for the court. When Hindu organizations protested Mather & team left the place for good. Most dangerous step from the municipal authorities was giving manappuram to infamous Islamic outfit, Popular Front, for conducing their camp. When they left manappuram after the completion of the camp what they left behind was a flag platform reading Zaheed Tipu Sulthan Nagar. Hindu organisations found it an attempt to grab the whole manappuram. Moreover Tipu is considered by Kerala Hindus as a persona non grata since during his military campaigns, temples and idols were broken and looted and thousands of Hindus were converted to Islam by force.
When Vishswa Hindu Parishad and Hindu Aikya Vedi came out with strong protests the matter came before the court. Initially Dewasvom Board maintained that they had only 12 plus acreas out of 152 acres of manappuram. But, after couple weeks, It looked like they changed their stand. Now, they claimed before the court that the whole manappuram belongs to the Devaswom. Hindus are really happy about this new affidavit.
Now it looks like manappuram attains the status of an Ayodhya controversy in making ? Hope, political parties will shed their pseudo secular attitude in these sorts of matters of national importance.