A controversy has been created over a ritual being followed in Nashik over the years at the Trimbakeshwar Temple. A video has emerged showing a group of Muslim men at the steps of the temple to offer a chadar on the Shivling on May 13. The incident created a tense situation, with some devotees and temple authorities objecting to the act, citing it as a violation of religious norms. The video has gone viral on social media, further fueling the controversy surrounding the incident.
In response to the incident, Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe to look into the allegations of forcible entry and the claims surrounding the decades-old ritual. This decision by Fadnavis has further intensified the political tensions surrounding the controversy. Trimbakeshwar Temple Trust has also written to Nashik Commission of Police demanding action against the group for trying to enter the temple, reported Times Now.
The Muslim community leaders have expressed surprise and remorse over this controversy and the move to order a probe into this as the ritual of showing loban or frankincense from the temple entrance steps is a practice that has been followed by local Muslims over the last several decades, reported Indian Express. “There was no attempt to enter the temple or put any chadar inside the temple premises. Muslims in Trimbakeshwar have for generations been following the practice of sending the fumes of frankincense from the steps of the temple premises during an annual gathering at a nearby dargah. This practice has been going on for decades and the local Hindu community has never taken exception to it. We are surprised that this issue has now been raked up and it has taken a communal turn,” Avez Kokni, the former president of the Trimbakeshwar Nagar Parishad, told The Indian Express.
Even a local resident of Trimbakeshwar confirmed that this was an age-old practice and a symbol of syncretism. “Muslims make up a very small percentage of the city’s population and have stayed in harmony. Our city has been peaceful and non-communal which would explain why in spite of being a Muslim, I was accepted as a leader. I am surprised why this age-old custom is now suddenly being questioned,” Parvez Kokni, former chairman of the Nashik District Central Cooperative Bank, told the publication. However, a section of temple trustees have said they do not know of any such tradition.
Members of the Muslim community have submitted to the police evidence such as videos of previous years where a similar ritual was conducted at the entrance of the temple.
The temple incident has triggered a debate on religious tolerance and coexistence. Some might argue that it is important to respect and accommodate various religious beliefs and rituals and to promote syncretism in a culturally diverse country like ours. Others who differ from this point of view are the ones up in arms against this practice which a sizable population has claimed to be a tradition of many years.