Upset after HC order, Tripura Sundari temple priests say Diwali incomplete

Earlier this year, the Tripura HC had banned animal sacrifice in the state

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On Sunday, Tripura observed its first ritual slaughter-free Diwali in 525 years after the Tripura HC banned the practice. However, priests and devotees at the Tripura Sundari temple, concerned about this matter, said that Diwali was rendered incomplete without the animal sacrifice, The Indian Express reported.

Earlier this year in September, the Tripura High Court had ordered a ban on the tradition of animal sacrifice in temples. The judgment delivered by the HC’s Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjoy Karol and Justice Arindam Lodh, in a response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a retired judge Subhash Bhattacharjee read, “no person including the state shall be allowed to sacrifice any animal/bird within the precincts of any one of the temples within the State of Tripura…”

Examining several Supreme Court judgements, the HC once again examined the difference between a religious practice and essential and integral part of the practice of a religion and held that bird/animal slaughter should be banned.

The HC Order may be read here.

The petitioner had argued that slaughtering animals in the name of sacrifice was a social evil and against the Constitutional mandate. Animal sacrifice is not an essential or integral part of Hinduism and the HC had questioned whether the ritual could be allowed given that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 does not condone it.

Tripura Sundari temple’s head priest Chandan Chakraborty told the paper that the Diwali puja was done in the name of the king. “Animal sacrifice or ritual slaughter (Boli) is a part of the Puja process. The Court order didn’t give us time to finish sacrificing animals already pledged by devotees to their Goddess. They are returning dejected,” he said, adding how they were doing an ‘Angaheen’ (incomplete) puja now.

The temple, located at Southern Udaipur, 55 km from Agartala, is one the 51 Hindu Shaktipeethas and is considered to one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the country.

Keeping in mind, the ban on animal slaughter, the festivities took a somber route too. The Tripura Sundari dance and music festival which sported a variety of ethnic dances and musical performances and that used to be held for the last 10 years, was dropped and instead a a ‘mangal-arati’ with 1,000 devotees was organised in front of Kalyansagar – a pond excavated by the king after building this temple.

Opposing voices

Earlier this month, scion of the Royal family of Tripura and former Pradesh Congress President Pradyot Kishore Deb Burman announced that he would move the Supreme Court (SC) against the Tripura HC judgment regarding the ban. While saying that he was not in favour of animal sacrifice, he said, “The high court cannot override the provisions of the merger agreement which was signed on October 15, 1949 between Regent Maharani Kanchan Prabha Devi and the governor general of India.” He had added, “Before delivering the verdict, the High Court should consult with the stake holders and the civil society. The Court should not intervene into the traditional social, cultural and religious belief.”

The merger agreement made it mandatory for the Tripura government to continue the sponsorship (including sacrifice of animals at government expenditure) of several traditional tribal pujas and 14 temples, including the Mata Tripura Sundari Temple run by the Hindu princely rulers.

Members of the National Service Scheme (NSS) also said that the decision to ban animal sacrifice had hurt the sentiments of the devotees.
Citing that banning animal sacrifice didn’t guarantee everlasting life to animals, a devotee said, “If you can’t stop indiscriminate slaughtering across the state, how come animal sacrifice in temples was stopped? This is not right.”

Animal sacrifice has been long practiced in the Tantrik method of worship of the Dash Maha Vidya (ten forms of the Goddess of Hindus) and animal rights activists have welcomed the ban saying it would end cruelty to animals in the name of religion.

There were those who thought this animal sacrifice was fanaticism. “We live in a modern world. Ritual slaughter started as anthropological transition from hunting to domesticated life. Unnecessary brutality in the name of religion is not acceptable now. Calling for revival of boli is religious vigilantism,” said a government employee, who didn’t wish to be named.

In 2014, the Himachal Pradesh high court had banned animal sacrifice for religious reasons, deeming the practice cruel and barbaric.

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