Sabarimala stampede: Is ''Makara Jyothi'' man made, HC asks TDB

Kochi, Jan 20 (PTI) The Kerala High Court today asked theBoard managing the Sabarimala hill shrine if ''Makara Jyoti'' isman made amid a renewed debate on the authenticity of thehallowed celestial light after the stampede that killed 102pilgrims.

The court''s poser came even as Kerala''s LDF governmentruled out any probe to ascertain the genuineness of whatmillions of Ayyappa devotees believe is an annual divinephenomenon.

The question was posed to Travancore Devaswom Board(TDB)senior counsel T G Paraneshwar Nair after the reports filed byKerala DGP, the Forest department and TDB on the Pullmedutragedy came up before it in response to its directivefollowing the Sabarimala tragedy.

In the worst-ever disaster to strike the Sabarimalapilgrimage, 102 persons died in a stampede on January 14 atPulamedu near the hill shrine when they were returning homeafter witnessing ''Makara Jyothi''.

The Makara Jyothi, a beacon that fleetingly appears atdusk on January 14, marks the climax of the two-month''Makaravilakku'' season from mid-November at Sabarimala wherelakhs of pilgrims come for pilgrimage. The light flickersacross the skies above Ponnambalamedu, east of Sabarimalashrine during the ''Makarasamkramam,'' a pooja ritual.

Nair told a bench of the court comprising JusticesThothathil B Radhakrishnan and P S Gopinath that ''MakaraJyothi'' is a celestial star, considered divine.

The Board however has not given any publicity that it was''divine'', he stated, to which the court said ''People shouldknow what is what'' and asked TDB to clarify this aspect.

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan meanwhaile ruled out anyprobe on the authenticity of ''Makara Jyothi.''

Speaking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, he said thegovernment would not inquire if it was a divine phenomenon ora man-lit phenomenon as essentially the whole issue was amatter of faith for millions.

"The Government is neither going to consult astrologersnor scientists to ascertain the veracity of Makarajyothi,which millions believe is divine and throng the hill shrinewith intense desire to see it", he said.

The tragedy has led to a renewed debate on MakaraJyothi, which rationalists have for long alleged is a man-litfire arranged by the temple authorities and governmentagencies.

Adding a new dimension, Rahul Eswar, a member of thefamily of high priests of Sabarimala, said the light appearingabove is man-lit while the actual Makara Jyothi is a brightstar that ascends across the skies on the Makarasamkramam, thetime when the sun moves from ''dhanu rasi'' (Sagittarius sign)to ''Makaram rasi'' (Capricorn).

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