February 21, 2018
The annual ‘Kumba Bharani’ festival at Chettikulangara Devi Temple in Alappuzha, Kerala festival involves 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.
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.
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.
After 7-10 days of elaborate feasts, 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. They are then paraded around.
After the ceremony, people look down upon them as a sign of bad luck, and as the children grow up, this tag stays with them through life. Efforts to end this practice have fallen on deaf ears.