To propitiate gods and goddesses, Hindu devotees typically offer oil, flowers, coconut, incense and fruits. In a Kerala temple, however, chocolate of a particular brand is the reigning offering, so much so that the deity is affectionately known as Munch Murugan.
Since it the examination time, anxious parents and students have flooded the Thekkan Palani temple, on the outskirts of port town Alappuzha, with chocolates.
Shrine authorities are finding it difficult to deal with the glut. In the past, they have auctioned the stocks.
Devotees offer Munch bars to the deity and get back a portion of it, along with flowers and sandal paste, as prasadam.
Some overzealous devotes are offering chocolate bars equal to their body weight to please the god. And the shops nearby are making a kill.
"Chocolate offering started three years ago. Since the deity is Balamurugan (child Balasubramanyam, son of Lord Shiva), one day a devotee brought some chocolates as an offering. Since his wishes were fulfilled, it became a custom here," said temple manager D Radhakrishnan.
Initially, only children used to bring chocolates, but gradually everybody joined the race.
"Even foreigners come here with boxes of chocolate bars," said the manager.
The chocolates are piling up fast. So the temple management plans accepting cash instead, like Guruvayur temple where Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa set a trend by offering an elephant in 2000. It had triggered a jumbo rush at the temple, prompting the management to accept cash, not the real elephants.
The Thekkan Palani shrine is managed by a family trust and it was renovated two years back to check the pilgrims' rush.
While chocolates might have made it famous, the management is a little worried that the temple is increasingly becoming associated with an international confectionary giant's chocolate brand.