The counsel for the Sabarimala temple authorities told the Kerala high court on Thursday the Makara Jyoti (celestial light) is a divine star, the vision of which is considered sacred.
The observation came after the Kerala high court asked the Sabarimala management to explain the phenomenon of the 'celestial light'. A huge crowd gathered in Pulmedu, about 32 km from the shrine, on Friday to see the light, causing a stampede that claimed 102 lives.
"Even if it is a question of belief (about divinity), pilgrims should be told the truth," a division bench of justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and justice PS Gopinath said.
This observation came when three inquiry reports – of the police, the forest department and TDB – were filed on the Sabariamala stampede.
While the issue sparked a debate in the state, the supreme priest of the Sabarimala temple has maintained a distinction between Makara Jyoti, which is 'divine', and Makara Villakku, which is 'manmade'.
"Makara Jyoti and makara vilakku are totally different. The first is the appearance of a star and the latter is a ritual to announce this. We have clarified this more than once. It is sad some people are still clubbing them together," he said.
Chief minister VS Achuthanandan has also reacted cautiously, saying the jyoti was a question of faith and the state government had no intention to join issue on this. "It is a matter of belief. We don’t have any plans to interfere," he said.
The seasonal pilgrimage (November-January) of sighting the celestial light drew more than 40 million people in 2009-2010 and till December the board's revenue was more than Rs 140 crore. Though the shrine is a major revenue earner, pilgrims are denied bare facilities.
Skirting any controversy, devaswom minister (the ministry managing religious trusts) Ramachandran Kadannappally said: It is a matter of belief. Any reform or changes initiatives should come from religious leaders, supreme priest and temple board."