Kochi: A plea was moved in the Kerala High Court on Monday to seek the opinion of the Thantri (chief priest) of the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala about the propriety of using 'halal' jaggery to prepare 'prasadam' like 'aravana' and 'appam' and the steps for 'remedying the situation'.
The application seeking the Thantri's opinion was moved by the petitioner S J R Kumar, the Sangh Parivar activist who has opposed procuring of 'halal'-certified jaggery for the preparation of 'aravana' -- a pudding made out of jaggery and rice, and 'appam' -- sweet rice and jaggery based fritter -- which are given as 'prasadam' to devotees at the Ayyappa temple.
"The Court may be pleased to direct the respondents 1 (TDB) to obtain the opinion of the Thantri on the propriety of using halal jaggery in preparing Naivedyam for the Lord Ayyappa and the remedial measures required at the shrine," the application said.
The court said it will take up the matter on Wednesday when the Commissionerate of Food Safety has to file its response to the petition as was directed on November 17.
On November 18, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, told the court that the jaggery received by it had 'halal' mentioned on the packaging as they are also exported to Arab countries by the company supplying to them.
The TDB had also told the court that the 'appam' and 'aravana' are being prepared using fresh supplies of jaggery received earlier this year and the older stock which was tested in September and found unsuitable for human consumption has been auctioned off to Thrissur-based Southern Agro Tech India Pvt Ltd for making cattle feed.
The Board said the instant petition by Kumar, who claims to be the General Convenor of Sabarimala Karma Samithi, contains allegations which were "absolutely false, baseless and are made purposefully with the malicious intention to stall sale of 'appam' and 'aravana' in Sabarimala" and to "torpedo" the pilgrimage season.
The Board has claimed that stalling the sale of 'aravana' and 'appam' at Sabarimala would cause a huge financial loss to it.
"There is a calculated attempt to attack the reputation of Sabarimala and to hurt the religious feelings of the pilgrims and thereby destroying the communal harmony through various posts published and circulated in the social media," it had alleged.
Countering the Board's allegations, S J R Kumar, in his affidavit filed along with the application, contended that TDB's stand indicates it was "concerned only about the commercial interest and not serious about the sanctity and purity of the Naivedyam presented to Lord Ayyappa".
"After failing to protect the Thantrik rituals at temple by providing Satwik /pure materials for the preparation of Naivedyam / prasadam at Sabarimala, the respondents (TDB) have no authority to put the blame on this petitioner for bringing their faults to the notice of this Court," the affidavit, filed through advocate V Sajith Kumar, said.
The petitioner has also claimed that according to the report of the Special Commissioner, Sabarimala, the older jaggery stock was "found to be infested with insects and unsafe" and therefore, it could not have been auctioned off for even preparing cattle feed.
The affidavit also claimed that the company to which the older jaggery was auctioned was not in the business of cattle feed, but rather in the hotel and restaurants business.
The issue assumes importance as the two-month-long annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala has commenced and devotees in the thousands would be arriving there during this period.