Thousands of devotees swarmed the Chikkamaglur district of Karnataka on Tuesday as the three-day Datta Jayanthi celebrations kicked off at the controversial Bababudangiri-Datta Peeta.
Taking no chance with the security, the Karnataka police department deputed 3,500 police personnel to maintain law and order and peace in the district. The police have also established 46 check posts.
For the first time, as per the directions of the court, Hindu priests offered worship to Guru Dattatreya at a temple atop Bababudangiri hill. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal workers monitored the worship.
The government has appointed a priest after a long struggle by Hindu activists. The controversial site was often referred to as Karnataka’s Ayodhya.
Though the shrine symbolized the harmony of Hindus and Muslims, it went on to become a center of the crisis and struggle for over three decades. As per the court order, the government formed an eight-member management committee.
Opposition Congress had alleged that the committee had given a meager representation for Muslims. However, the ruling BJP did not bother to respond. The committee had proposed the appointment of Hindu priests and it was approved.
National General Secretary and BJP MLA C.T. Ravi, Bajrang Dal South Province Coordinator Raghu Sakaleshpur, and major Hindu activists are taking part in the Datta Jayanti.
Datta Peetha, the shrine in Chikkamagaluru has been a pilgrimage spot for both Hindus and Muslims. The BJP, however, is demanding that the site be declared a Hindu temple.
Before 1964, the shrine was revered by both Hindus and Muslims. It symbolized Sufi culture and the unity of Hindu and Islam cultures. The shrine was known as Shree Guru Dattatreya Bababudan Swamy Dargah. What was a pilgrimage spot for the two faiths has become a disputed site between Hindus and Muslims.
Hindus consider the hill to be the final resting place of Dattatreya, the Muslims believe the dargah is one of the earliest centers of Sufism in south India. They believe that Sufi saint Dada Hayat Mirkalandar has lived there for years.
Irrespective of the controversy, the local coffee planters before the harvest visit the shrine and offer worship. Fakir Bababudan, a Sufi saint of the 17th century from Yemen who settled in the shrine is credited with planting the first coffee seeds in the Indian sub-continent.