Indian food ritual sparks dispute
New Delhi - A ritual in which low-caste tribal Indians roll in food left over from a feast for high-caste Hindus has sparked a dispute after participants fought attempts by social activists to ban the practice.
The "made snana" ceremony, which ended on Wednesday at the Subrahmanya temple in the southern state of Karnataka, involves hundreds of people rolling on the floor after a meal served on large leaves to Brahmins.
The local Malekudiya tribe believes the ritual, which is held over a three-day annual festival, cleanses them of impurities and cures skin problems, the Indian media reported.
KS Shivaramu, an activist who demanded a ban of the "inhuman" and "unscientific" ceremony, was beaten up outside the temple as he lobbied police to intervene, the Hindu newspaper reported on Thursday.
"The practice of serving food inside the temple only for a particular caste should be stopped," he said, adding that rolling through food was "being done to perpetuate superstitious beliefs".
But Guraraj Bhat, a member of the Malekudiya tribe, said he had completed the practice of rolling through food for the last eight years.
"Good things have happened to me due to 'made snana'," he told the paper.
State authorities have tried to ban the ritual, which is said by some to be 500 years old, but they relented under pressure from the tribe.
A state official told the Mail Today the ritual amounted to "discrimination".
But he added: "Thousands of devotees wanted to perform the ritual. We were not in a position to go against their beliefs."
India's indigenous tribal groups are seen as being at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, along with Dalit "untouchables".
Caste discrimination is illegal in India but many low-caste and tribal groups are still marginalised in society, especially outside the major cities.