This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shikha Sharma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Chooral Muriyal: What A Sick Temple ‘Ritual’ Is Doing To Young Boys In Kerala

More from Shikha Sharma

Impact: The story was read by more than 72k people and shared by thousands. Post its publication, the Kerala High Court upheld the ban on Chooral Muriyal, making practising of the ritual a non-bailable offence under law. Read more about it here.

Like every year, arrangements for the annual ‘Kumba Bharani’ festival are in full swing at Chettikulangara Devi Temple in Alappuzha, Kerala. However, what many don’t know about this grand festival, also called the Kumbh Mela of the south, is a 250 old regressive ritual that involves young boys from poor families being ‘adopted’ by the rich and offered as bali (or sacrifice) to God, only to be abandoned later.

That’s not all. Temple authorities continue to conduct the ritual every year, defying the ban that was imposed on it by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR) in November 2016 for violating the Juvenile Justice Act and the Kerala High Court upholding its validity.

This year too, the Kerala High Court has ruled against the ritual’s performance, stating anyone found in defiance of its order, would be guilty of a non-bailable offence. Unfazed by the Court order, temple authorities are still continuing preparations for the ritual that will see 24 children being offered as human sacrifices this year, in what can only be described as blatant child rights violation.

Chooral Muriyal

The ritual, known as ‘Chooral Muriyal’, forms a part of the larger ‘Koodiyattam’ – an offering devotees make to Goddess Bhadrakali, the temple deity during the festival. As a part of Koodiyattam, young boys between the age of 8- 14 years are ‘adopted’ from underprivileged families in exchange for money, sometimes as much as Rs.1 lakh.

The boys are adopted by the families which promise to make the vazhipadu (offering) for the next 7-10 days until the day of the festival. Apart from decadent feasts being prepared at these households, the young boys are taught elaborate dance steps. On the day of the ‘Bharani’, the boys are dressed as kings with paper crowns and plantain leaves.

Then, in a ritual of ‘chooral muriyal’, the skin on either side of the child’s midrib is pierced with a needle and golden strands are inserted by an Asan (master). The children are paraded to the temple accompanied by cheering devotees and a cacophony of flute and slogans on the festival day. When they reach the temple, the elders pull out the string from the bleeding fissures and offer it to the temple. This, officially, marks the end of the Koodiyattam ceremony.

A photo from a Chooral Muriyal ceremony.

The Reality Of The Practice

“The rules of the ritual actually mandate that families offer their own children for the sacrifice. But obviously, that doesn’t happen. Instead, poor children have become the scapegoat, with rich families ‘adopting’ children from poor families in exchange for a sum of money,” says Jaswinder Singh, Head of Communication & Advocacy, at Protsahan, which has started an online petition on against the conduct of the ceremony.

Says T. Sudheesh, the journalist who has witnessed the ceremony, “We spoke to 15-20 families, and saw for just how little – sometimes for as little as jewellery and toys the children are exchanged for by their families. The shame is not on the poor families. It’s on the rich, who couldn’t dream of putting their children through what they do to poor kids.”

But, the best-kept secret about the practice perhaps is what happens to these children after the festival. Since the ritual signifies that a ‘human sacrifice’ has been made to God, the children are completely ostracized by society, considered ‘dead’ for all intents and purposes. People look down upon them as a sign of bad luck, and as the children grow up, this tag stays with them through life, Singh told YKA.

Efforts to end the practice so far, have fallen on deaf ears, because of the large political patronage the temple enjoys.

“The devotee outfit – Sreedevi Vilasam Hindumatha Convention – that claims to represent the interests of the entire community, has some very powerful people that no-one wants to take on. And while the Court has categorically said that the organization neither represents the interests of the community or the temple, the strong clout that this temple enjoys from them, has emboldened them to defy even court orders,” Sudheesh told YKA.

Just how much political patronage the temple enjoys can be gauged from the active support it enjoys from politicians, who at times even take part in the ceremony. For example, last year, Suresh Gopi, a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha, took part in the primitive ritual, and two children were subjected to the ritual for the ‘welfare’ of the politician’s family.

In addition to Gopi, 14 others also offered Koodiyattams to the deity on the day last year, parading at least two children each, spending 10 to 50 lakh.

“This is the most shocking part. That something like this is happening in a state with the highest literacy rate, and that it has gone unchecked, due to the collusion between some very powerful people and the temple authorities,” child rights activist Sonal Kapoor, told YKA.

That the issue has been completely blacked out by local media in Kerala hasn’t helped either.

“There is a gross human rights violation happening despite court orders, but no one in Malayali media wants to cover this issue. No one wants to pick a fight with vested interests within the community,” Sudheesh says.

And so, all that all those fighting against the regressive ritual can do is – hope. Hope, that enough awareness, will force the public to take notice and pull out government machinery from its slumber. So that, at least this year, 24 innocent children, can be saved.

Help us save 24 innocent children by sharing this story further.

You must be to comment.
  1. Shahla Khan

    OMG, this is such a blatant abuse of power and privilege. Thanks for sharing the truth behind this cruel primitive practice and raising awareness.

  2. Prasanth Kumar S R

    If the author is unaware, don’t publish utter foolishness. Chooral muriyal () is the final step of Kuthiyottam, not Koodiyattam. Koodiyattam is a traditional performing artform in the state of Kerala, India. It is a combination of ancient Sanskrit theatre with elements of Koothu, a Tamil performing art which is as old as Sangam era. It is officially recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It is no way connected to Kuthiyottam. Kuthiyottam is a ritualistic symbolic representation of human bali. Young two boys between 8 and 14 years are taught Kuthiyottam, a ritual dance in the house amidst a big social gathering before the portrait of the deity. After the feast and other rituals, the boys whose body is pierced with a silver wire, one end of which is tied around their belly and an arecanut fixed on the tip of a knife held high over their head are taken in procession to the temple with the accompaniment of beating of drums, music, ornamental umbrellas, and other classical folk art forms. All through the way to the temple tender coconut water will be continually poured on their body. After the circumambulation the boys stands at a position facing the Sreekovil (Sanctum Sanctorum) and begins to dance. This ceremony ends with dragging the wire pierced to the skin whereby a few drops of blood comes out.

More from Shikha Sharma

Similar Posts

By Charkha features

By Suny Tomar

By Aaditya Kanchan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below