Every year, the famed Chettikkulankara Devi temple in Kerala’s Alappuzha district observes a 250 old regressive ritual – where young boys from poor families are ‘adopted’ from underprivileged families in exchange for money, and offered as bali (or sacrifice) to God.
The practice, called ‘Chooral Muriyal’, forms a part of the larger ‘Koodiyattam’ – an offering devotees make to Goddess Bhadrakali, the temple deity. Once the ritual is conducted, children who are offered as sacrifices are completely ostracized, considered ‘dead’ for all intents and purposes – in what can only be termed as an outright child rights violation.
While most mainstream media organizations based out of South India blacked out the issue, perhaps, because of the widespread influence temple authorities enjoy, Youth Ki Awaaz, amongst a few others, had done a detailed story on the ritual, reporting how temple authorities were planning to conduct the ritual, despite the fact that the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR) had imposed a ban on it and the Kerala High Court had upheld its validity.
Read and shared by thousands, the story helped bring the issue to attention in mainstream media. The matter also made it to court, where the Kerala High Court had upheld the ban on Chooral Muriyal, making the ritual practice a non-bailable offence under law.
The Travancore Devaswom Board and the police had also issued notices on the organisers last year to not go ahead with the ritual. When temple authorities defied the court order and went ahead with the ritual anyway, the police registered an FIR against the Sreedevi Vilasam Hindumatha Convention leaders – the organizers of the festival. Police had also questioned the leaders and prepared a chargesheet, to be submitted in court.
Efforts to end Chooral Muriyal had mostly fallen on deaf ears in the past, because of the large political patronage the temple lobby enjoys.