By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala, Oct 4 (IANS) There would be no sacrifice of animals during Durga Puja in the famous Durga Bari temple here for the first time in 525 years as the Tripura High Court has banned the centuries-old tradition of animal sacrifice in religious places.
The Tripura government has been sponsoring the Puja in the Durga Bari temple for the last 70 years.
“For the first time in 525 years, there would be absolutely no sacrifice of animals during the five-day ‘Durga Puja’. We would abide by the order of the Tripura High Court,” Dulal Bhattacharjee, the octogenarian chief priest of Durga Bari temple, told IANS.
The 92-year-old Bhattacharjee’s son Jayanta Bhattacharjee said that as per the order of the ‘Debarchan Vibhaga’ (worship wing) of the West Tripura district administration, no animal sacrifice would be carried out in Durga Bari temple.
“Till last year, a young buffalo, several goats and pigeons were sacrificed during the five-day festival at Durga Bari,” Jayanta, also a priest, told IANS.
A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Arindam Lodh in a landmark judgement on September 27 ordered that no person including the state government shall be allowed to sacrifice any animal or bird within the precincts of any of the temples in the state of Tripura.
Tripura’s Law and Education Minister Ratan Lal Nath toldudaipur kiranthat the state government in a day or two would file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court against the Tripura HC order.
“The high court order evoked a mixed reaction. According to the prevailing law, sacrifice of animals in religious places does not mean cruelty against animals. Hence, the state government has decided to file the SLP before the Supreme Court. After the apex court decision, the state government would take the follow up steps on the issue,” the minister said.
Tripura former royal family scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, former President of the Tripura Pradesh Congress, also declared that he would file a petition before the apex court soon against the high court judgement, saying the court cannot overrule the provisions of the merger agreement which was signed in 1949.
At the end of the 1,355-year-rule by 184 kings, on October 15, 1949, the erstwhile princely state of Tripura came under the control of the Indian government after a merger agreement was signed between regent Maharani Kanchan Prabha Devi and the Indian Governor General.
The agreement made it mandatory for the Tripura government to continue the sponsorship (including sacrifice of animals at government expenditure) of several traditional tribal pujas and 14 temples, including the Mata Tripura Sundari Temple and Durga Bari, run by the Hindu princely rulers. This continued for around seven decades.
Tripura is possibly the only state in India where the government continues to sponsor an over five century-old Durga Puja, that is also closely overseen by the erstwhile royal family.
With ‘Maha Sasthi’ or ‘Bodhan’ — the welcoming of Durga idol — the five-day Puja began on Friday at the Durga Bari temple, located in front of the 114-year-old Ujjayanta Palace, eastern India’s biggest royal mansion.
“Many decades after the beginning of the royal era in Tripura, the erstwhile kings started Durga Puja over 525 years ago,” Jayanta Bhattacharjee told IANS.
His father Dulal Bhattacharjee has been getting Rs 830 as monthly honorarium from the state government as “Head Priest” of Durga Bari temple. Dulal has been associated with the Durga Puja in this temple for over 67 years.
“The state government, like in previous years, has sanctioned around Rs 4 lakh this time for Durga Puja at this royal temple,” he said.
Former union minister and BJP MP Maneka Gandhi, who is also the chairperson of the People For Animals and a well-known animal rights activist, earlier in a letter to the District Magistrates of Tripura had asked them to stop the “cruel killing of animals in the temples” during religious festivities.