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Burial rite gives way to jump ritual

Chennai, Nov. 16: If children in Tamil Nadu are not buried in a thanksgiving ritual, they will have a priest jump over them instead.

Less than two weeks after the Jayalalithaa regime banned the age-old ritual of burying alive persons in any place of worship or its precincts, residents of a Madurai village have hit upon a substitute.

Villur village had planned to repeat on Wednesday night the ritual that hit the headlines when 105 children were buried alive and retrieved immediately from near a temple in Peraiyur village, also in Madurai, in August.

But the district administration stepped in, forcing the villagers to modify their practice. Seventy children were then made to lie down in groups of three on large blankets and mats, and the priest of the local temple, dedicated to Goddess Muthalamman, was asked to “jump over them”.

“Two days ahead of the proposed repeat of this ritual in Villur, when we got wind of it, revenue department personnel rushed to the village and explained to them that the child-burial ritual has been banned and its practice will invite criminal action,” an official in the Madurai district headquarters said.

In Villur, the ritual was to take place after a gap of more than four years. But “we dissuaded the people from going ahead with it, pointing to the new law which provides for a jail-term of up to three years, and also sought to convince them about how barbaric the practice was,” the official said.

Despite initial reluctance in giving up their long-held belief, the villagers “eventually accepted our advice when we explained how even a minister lost his job because of the child-burial ritual,” the official added.

C. Durairaj lost his job as local administration minister after it was pointed out that he had attended the Peraiyur burial ceremony in August. Following the outcry over the ritual, held in the village after five years, Jayalalithaa had it banned in the monsoon session.

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