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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

BJP MP faces Dalit ire in K’taka over cancellation of festival

Mahisha Dasara is an annual celebration of Mahishasura, who Dalit groups claim, has been misrepresented by Vedic myths as a demon, when in fact he was not.

south Updated: Sep 27, 2019 23:58 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Bengaluru
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mysuru MP Pratap Simha came in for criticism on Friday from after he ensured an event of Dalit assertion was called off because it celebrated Mahishasura, a demon king who was slayed by the goddess Chamundeshwari.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mysuru MP Pratap Simha came in for criticism on Friday from after he ensured an event of Dalit assertion was called off because it celebrated Mahishasura, a demon king who was slayed by the goddess Chamundeshwari. (ANI Photo)
         

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mysuru MP Pratap Simha came in for criticism on Friday from after he ensured an event of Dalit assertion was called off because it celebrated Mahishasura, a demon king who was slayed by the goddess Chamundeshwari.

Mahisha Dasara is an annual celebration of Mahishasura, who Dalit groups claim, has been misrepresented by Vedic myths as a demon, when in fact he was not.

On Friday, a video doing the rounds on social media showing an irate Simha lashing out at authorities for allowing the organisers of Mahisha Dasara to put up a pandal. He also questioned the organisers of the event about the permissions they received to hold the event.

A visibly irate Simha told organisers that they did not have permission to gather on Chamundi hills. Then he let loose at police officials before directing them to get the area cleared, saying, “those born to Mahisha can celebrate at their homes”.

The incident has become controversial; the Mahisha Dasara Samiti has members from various Dalit organisations. Shantaraju, one of the organisers of the event, said the event has been held without much controversy over the past six years.

“There were no such incidents in the past,” he said. “We have historical proof to show that Mahisha was a Buddhist king and there are no historical references to Chamundi from before 300 years ago.”

“Our contention is that Mysuru is named after Mahisha and that we are the original inhabitants of this land and we are celebrating that,” Shantaraju said. “Chamundi hills was actually called Mahabaladri hill and there is a temple behind the Chamundeshwari temple which predates it,” he said. “It was the Urs kings of the Mysuru who introduced this belief about 350 years ago,” he said.

The incident has echoes of a controversy in Kerala a few years ago when the BJP tried to celebrate Onam as Vamana jayanthi, much to the ire of locals who have traditionally celebrated it in honour of asura king Mahabali.

Shantaraju said the permission to hold the event was denied by Pratap Simha and V Somanna [state minister].

Somanna said that it was true that the organisers had been denied permission at his insistence. “What is this Mahisha Dasara and why does it have to be held at such a holy place like the Chamundi hills?”

The minister said that he held a meeting on Thursday evening with the organisers but failed to convince them not to go ahead with the event.

“This event has been held only for the past three years and there are hardly 100 people there,” he said. “I told them that they should meet me after October 8, after Dasara is over,” he said. “How can they do this to our traditions? The Mysuru Dasara is in its 409th year,” he added.

Historian Nanjaraj Urs said the controversy was best avoided because history is open to interpretation. “Everybody has the freedom of expression and they have historical records to prove their claim, which can, no doubt, be contested (by someone else). However, is there a need to cancel an event for that reason? After all it is not a big event?” he said.

Simha did not answer phone calls and messages seeking comment.

First Published: Sep 27, 2019 23:51 IST

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