by Darshan Devaiah BP Updated: April 14, 2022
The historic Chennakeshava temple in Belur continued with its age-old tradition of kicking off the rathotsava (chariot festival) after reciting passages from the Quran, despite opposition from Right-wing activists.
The state’s endowment department allowed the temple authorities to go ahead with the practice on Wednesday. The annual celebrations started on Wednesday under strict vigil of the district police. Hundreds of people from across the state thronged the Chennakeshava temple to witness the two-day festival.
“Reading excerpts from the Quran is a tradition but this year, there was a confusion as the temple authorities had initially issued a notice barring Muslim traders from setting up stalls. However, the endowment department took the suggestion of various priests and decided to go ahead with the tradition,” an official from the Endowment department told The Indian Express.
According to the tradition, a maulvi reads out excerpts from the Quran to mark the beginning of the celebrations at the Chennakeshava temple. Recently, as the spectre of communal tension loomed large over Karnataka, Right-wing activists had urged the district administration and temple authorities to bar Muslim traders from taking part in the festival.
However, the state endowment department had directed the temple administration not to bar any non-Hindu traders and allowed them to set up stalls and participate in the celebrations, according to senior officials of the department. “Accordingly, around 15 Muslim traders had set up their shops,” a senior official told The Indian Express.
Maulvi Syed Sajjad Basha chanted verses from the Quran on day one of the rathotsava on Wednesday before the chariot was pulled. Speaking to The Indian Express, Basha, a maulvi from Doddamedur village in Hassan district said, “The recital of verses from the Quran before starting the chariot festival has been a tradition for generations by my ancestors. This year too I recited verses from the Quran, in a symbol of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. Both Hindus and Muslims should live united with the blessings of God.”
Earlier, Belur Sri Chennakeshava Swamy Temple executive officer Vidyulatha had issued a notice to non-Hindu traders, asking them not to do business near the temple. “As per the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (HCRE) Act, a notice had been issued to non-Hindu traders. Now, as per the directions by the endowment department, the non-Hindu traders were allowed to do business during the festival,” Vidyulatha told The Indian Express.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rahil, a non-Hindu trader doing business near the Channakeshava temple for the last 40 years, said, “I am happy that the administration allowed us to do business. Our family has been doing business at the commercial complex for the last 40 years near the temple and our family is dependent on it.”
There were no untoward incidents during the temple event although earlier a few representatives of the pro-Hindutva groups had urged the district administration to ban non-Hindu traders from taking part in the festival.