Torture of young boys a feature of this Hindu religious festival

Torture of young boys a feature of this Hindu religious festival March 4, 2018

Friday, March 2, saw the culmination of the Attukal Pongala festival in Kerala – and the outbreak of row sparked by a senior police officer who blasted the cruel treatment of young boys in the name of religion.
The devout – mainly women – are invited to “experience the euphoria of religion, faith and beliefs” at the festival at the Attukal Bhagavathi temple in Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram, but, according to this report, officer R Sreelekha wrote in a blog entry that:

Little girls are decked up and made to wear a crown, carry a with lit lamp and other things and just paraded around. Harmless! But for 1,000 odd boys, it’s torture time in Attukal now. Parents conspire with temple authorities to put their children through rigorous mental and physical abuse for five days where boys from the age of 5 to 12 are made to wear just a loin cloth, submerge in cold water thrice daily, eat measly morsels squatting on the floor and sleep on the bare temple ground.
Yes, recite mantras and obey blindly their leaders too. They are not allowed to see their parents during this time.
And on the final day, each of them will be decked up with yellow cloths, garlands, jewellery and makeup on face including lipstick and made to stand in a queue for their last unexpected torture. An iron hook, tiny though it is, will be pierced into their skin on their flanks. They scream. Blood comes out.
A thread will be symbolically knotted through the hooks to symbolise their bond with divinity. Then hooks are pulled out and ash roughly applied to the wounds! All this for temple deity! Parents may feel relieved that their boys will now grow up to be disciplined kids and do well in their studies. Will the kids too feel the same?

Sreelekha, above, alleged that the ritual is followed without informing the children about the piercing. Causing physical and mental pain to children are offences under sections 89, 319, 320, 349, 350, 351 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Welfare Commission Act penalises it.
Responding to the controversy, Attukal Temple authorities said that they are only abiding by a ritual which has been going on for eons and accused Sreelekha of making her statement:

Without proper knowledge about the rituals.

However, the authorities refrained from admitting if they actually pierced the bodies of children or not.
Hat tip: Gaurav Tyagi

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  • Broga

    I suppose, being religion, the ritual has to be agonising, even on young boys. What may be the reason is that there is a perverted sexual element and the torture of the children gives a free pass to these sexual sadists. Again, being religion, they can torture the children and claim to be, and accepted as, doing good.
    From their layers of fat the religious sadists seem to be living well. Not religious ascetics. The claim to justify child torture as traditional is a typical ploy. Bull baiting was traditional once as was many other others.
    Officer R Sreelekha deserves support. Will she get it?

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    @Broga in response to your last sentence, the answer is no. Police or any other govt. official in India is in reality a servant to the ruling party politicians. No political party in India has the guts to speak out against religion and absurd religious practices in the name of traditions.

  • andym

    The two posts above summed up my first two reactions.i/that this officer was probably putting her job on the line ii/that there’s a paedophilic element to that picture-conscious or otherwise.
    As with circumcision, no attempt to justify the tradition-just the assumption that religious tradition trumps everything else.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    Is there ANYTHING that would ordinarily be a crime, but you can NOT get away with, if done in the name of religion?

  • andym

    I don’t think so.Imagine describing that picture in words to the police. “There’s a group of sweating, half-naked men, crowding around a boy whom they appear to have adorned with flowers. The boy looks terrified and and appears to be in tears.”
    Only the religious aspect stops them investigating.

  • L.Long

    ALL religions, along with all unquestioned customs and traditions, are evil or just plain st00pid at best! And examples like this or circumcision illustrate the truth of that statement!
    And this goes for ‘gawd did it, so that’s it’ which is just closing the intellect and being gawd’s lap dawg!!!

  • Angela_K

    “..they are only abiding by a ritual…”
    Sounds rather like “I was only obeying orders”. Sorry for the Godwin’s law.

  • Asif

    It’s sad that followers of the religion or belief can’t see how bad their belief is .

  • Broga

    Angela K: Here is Poe’s Law which I have proved to myself by my mistake on this site. I contend that the difficulty of distinguishing nonsense from a statement of fundamentalist belief offers some justification for me.
    “it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”

  • AgentCormac

    Looking back, my quarrel with religion has been one of the focal points of the 57 years I have so far enjoyed during my ‘brief spark of consciousness’. And over those years I have come to the conclusion that everything about religion – from its utterly torturous logic and the indefensible extortion of money from the poor, to the slaughter and inhuman persecution of those who refuse to conform and the rape of innocent children by those charged with their care – can be summed up in one word: pain.
    What a wonderful, glorious gift to humanity religion has been.

  • RussellW

    Any society that allows that abomination, the Caste system to flourish is capable of any atrocity in the name of religion.

  • 1859

    It’s ritual circumcision, FGM, – adults inflicting pain on children for religious reasons – well children are easy game aren’t they? Not only do the religious want to mutilate the minds of their children but their bodies as well. What child can resist such devout attention? Under these circumstances what child would have the courage to say ‘No!’? People even tried to justify cannibalism by declaring it to be a harmless ritual.

  • I. Flook

    At this day and age it’s uncivilsed.Wish there were people in power or brave enough to stop this.

  • Broga

    RussellW: Do we have a version of the caste system in the UK? The upper class from their private schools infest the government. They govern the rest of us while enjoying private health and education and at the same time deciding what is appropriate for the plebs. We have a royal family of no obvious conspicuous merit who enjoy vast privileges while insisting this is selfless service to the nation.
    The “old boy network” places less able people in the best jobs over true merit. The egregious example is royals, one of whom failed basic training, who are appointed generals and field marshalls.
    I think the system is being eroded but it is still there. The royal pantomime (another marriage soon) deflects the plebs attention from the way they are being screwed. We have a version of 1984 in place.

  • RussellW

    I agree with your opinion as to the real rulers of ‘democracies’ ie most liberal democracies are really plutocracies. (Incidentally that’s why I think that the UK will never leave the EU, the oligarchs will never allow it to occur). There are also alarming trends in the reduction of upward social mobility in the West, and an increase in inequality. Even in countries like Australia where the population has or had, an egalitarian ethos.
    But there are intrinsic differences between Caste and class. It’s more than simply a difference of degree.
    The Hindu caste system is religiously sanctioned and brutal. Generation after generation of Dalits are condemned to the most degraded and dangerous occupations. The sanctions for ‘uppity’ Dalits are brutal, they can be beaten or murdered for wearing a watch or shoes. Most Indians I’ve encountered seem quite oblivious to the injustices of the Caste system, it’s a religious requirement, you see. I doubt that the English class system is in the same category.
    So, my answer is that the English class system is only superficially similar to the Hindu caste system.

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    While I agree that so called ‘dalits’ in India, do face discrimination but a large number of Dalits in India have firmly established themselves in bureaucracy as well as in politics. The dalit politicians like to play the dalit card (victim mentality) but when in position of power, they too indulge in corruption without doing anything to uplift their poor dalit fellow caste brethrens. My take on the issue is simple, why don’t Dalits give a firm kick up the ‘backside of Hindu religion’ and shun this religion, which discriminates against them ?
    Dalits should turn atheists but the poor, uneducated ones among them are too scared to shun religion and incur the ‘divine wrath’ while the rich, upwardly mobile Dalits continue to enjoy their privileges generation after generation e.g.reservation of seats in educational institutions and govt. jobs without working hard.
    What you said regarding Britain holds true for the entire world. Everywhere on this planet one’s success largely depends on not what he/she knows but who he/she knows.

  • RussellW

    Gaurav Tyagi,
    That’s disappointing news, change will be a long time coming.

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    There won’t be any change. The world was, is and will continue to be a jungle, where the big animals i. e, predators gobble up the weaker ones.
    The biggest problem is that people with common sense and intellect like us (fellow atheists) and daily readers of this magazine are far too few and politically powerless to make any changes.
    The ruling class (politicians, priests and their sponsors the crony capitalists) possess the money, muscle and the media power. The status quo (present condition of the planet) perfectly suits their agenda.
    Stephen Hawking predicts the demise of this planet Earth in the next 100 years. End of life, end of all problems.

  • Broga

    RussellW and Gaurav Tyagi : I don’t expect much change because, sadly, the plebs have no hunger for it and, in my view, have been seduced into a comfortable apathy. I first experienced the disadvantage I was under when I went to Grammar School – a rare 11plus pass on my council house estate with a single parent mum.
    I turned up, no special coaching, and sat the exam. I was puzzled hearing other pupils discussing whom their parents had arranged to give them special coaching. The odds were already stacked against the council house pupils. My late brother, a sheet metal worker later, failed and that was what he expected. He was devoid of ambition.
    I could cite so many examples. When my brother crashed his motor bike and was unconscious I noticed a shift in attitudes when I gave our address. I wanted to know his chances of survival. “Don’t you worry about that. He is is good hands.” Meaning: leave it to us because you are not capable of dealing with this. He survived after being unconscious for a month.
    Then I married a doctor and into what my mum described as “a respectable family” – and then some. My wife and my mum used to do crosswords, too difficult for me, together. My mum was a factory worker and one day said she would have loved to be a nurse. My wife said, “Why wouldn’t you want to be a doctor?” And so it goes on.
    Having typed this as a kind of catharsis I came close to deleting it. But decided to let it stand. I know I am not alone and the waste of talent and repression is a tragedy. I don’t think we have a caste system but we very definitely have a class system.

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    @Broga so tragic yet true. You summed up the whole scenario in the first sentence of yours.

  • Brummie

    Well said Broga. It echoes my own scenario closely.

  • 1859

    I am glad you let your post stand Broga as it echoes so much of my own experience growing up in Liverpool in the 50s and 60’s. I too failed the 11 plus and went to a Secondary Modern together with many others who had enormous talents but who were just not ready for academic study at age 10. The point I want to pick up on is the tragic, grinding waste of talent I saw all around me. Some did rise – a friend of mine went to Uni and came out with a First in Material Science – but he carried with him all his life the stigma of having been ‘downgraded’ at age 11. A labour government forced the local council to create comprehensive schools and suddenly we had access to amazing grammar school teachers who literally altered the ambitions of thousands of pupils. As a teacher myself this phenomenon of innate talents left to atrophy into apathy is something that has always sent me into a spitting rage. The class system does exist in the UK, but it is like a club – you are either a member and on the inside, or you are not a member and you stay – forever – . on the outside. But even if you could ‘join’ who would want to be seen as a ‘class wanker’? Enough said.

  • RussellW

    Your comment is very interesting.
    My working class parents nearly bankrupted themselves by sending their two sons to private school, they wanted us to have collar and tie jobs. I went to business school and qualified as a CPA.In the 70s university education was free in Australia. An example of upward social mobility perhaps?
    Btw, I’m certainly not claiming that there’s no class system here in Australia although it seems less rigid than in the UK. Social democracy is under attack everywhere, eg fees were introduced for tertiary education some years ago ( by politicians who had been educated at university for free, bastards!). Complacency is a very bad idea, by some measures the working and middle classes are losing ground. In my opinion so many people vote against their own class interests, the really think that conservative politicians have their interests in mind.
    Sometimes, considering what tradesmen charge these days, I wonder if I would have made more money as a plumber.
    Barry, apologies for wandering OT.

  • Broga

    RussellW: My mum, one parent and working in a factory, struggled to buy the “essential” cricket, rugby (football was my game),gym equipment etc. No problem for my class mates with professionals as parents. What a bloody system.
    Sorry for the OT Barry. A subject that still hurts even after all those years.

  • Brummie

    @1859. I’m another ex-scouser who in the 1950s past”The Scholarship” and went to an appalling Christian Brothers school, but my elder brother didn’t. It condemned him to failure the rest of his life. He became a merchant seaman and sadly drank himself to death aged 50. Thankfully class divisions are fading in the U.K.

  • Broga

    Brummie: A relative of my wife’s failed the 11plus. Hey, no problem. His father sent him to Marlborough.