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SRINIVAS CHETAN | Issue Dated: April 8, 2007
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THE NAKED TRUTH The ‘Digambar’ or ‘sky-clad’ monks of Digambar Jainism have gone completely naked as part of their ascetic tradition for 2,500 years. But in the Hindu religion, such practices are rare. In 1992 a ban was imposed on Bettale Seve or Nude-worship, the controversial practice at the annual fair of Goddess Renukamba at Chandragutti. The ban, however does not come in the way of performing the religious rites of the ‘Chariot Ceremony’ during the fair.

Chandragutti, a village in Shimoga district is situated at a distance of 16 km, west of Sorab taluk. There is a temple of the goddess, built in 14th century, at the top of Chandragutti hill. The faithful from Dalit and bahujan communities were (are?) made to believe that the speciality of this temple is that Dalit women and men must go naked to worship this devi since ‘the purans’ says that if people go naked and pray to the devi they get all their wishes fulfilled, and people who do not follow these traditions meet with a lot of calamities’. Hence, for hundreds of years, in the month of March, thousands of men and women were seen marching into the temple completely naked and offering their prayers to the goddess. Some emancipated youth tried to stop this practice in 1984. But these activists were thrashed by goons and supporters of the temple-priests, paraded naked, and made to worship the devi. The victims included police officials – even women police officers.

A committee investigated the religious sanction of ‘Nagna-puja’ gave a report in 1988 stating that there is no such sanction in Hinduism. Amidst hue and cry the practice was stopped. Still incomplete in implementation, the law stems out of a central objection – that the presentation of nude women invariably is a prelude to their enticement into prostitution.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017