Differences between trustees, head priest lead to assault at Sigandur temple

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The Navaratri celebrations at Sigandur Chowdeshwari Temple have begun with untoward incidents, following differences between the trustees and the principal priest of the temple.

Video clips showing Subrahmanya Bhat, the younger brother of principal priest Sheshagiri Bhat, assaulting a person from the opposite camp led by S. Ramappa, the head of the trust, have gone viral across the State.

Chowdeshwari Temple situated at Sigandur, on the backwaters of Sharavati, in Sagar taluk, is being managed by the family headed by Ramappa. Sheshagiri Bhat and his team look after daily pooja and special homas on the temple premises.

In recent years, the temple has attracted devotees from different areas leading to increase in the revenue.

The differences between the two factions came to the fore after the government relaxed the lockdown to allow opening of religious places. A dispute over sharing the revenue is said to be the reason for the controversy.

Ramappa and his followers allegedly took over the premises belonging to the priest so that he couldn’t conduct special poojas. There were instances of heated arguments between two camps. Residents of area were also divided on the issue.

There have been protests supporting each camp. Many organizations have urged the State government to take over the temple. Former Minister Kagodu Thimmappa also issued a statement supporting the demand for bringing the temple under Muzrai Department.

Following the incident of assault on Friday, Deputy Commissioner K.B. Shivakumar and other senior officers visited the temple on Saturday. The DC spoke to both Ramappa and Sheshagiri Bhat.

The DC told reporters he has instructed the Assistant Commissioner of Sagar subdivision to file a report on the financial transactions of the temple within a week. The status report would be sent to the State government.

When The Hindu reached Sheshagiri Bhat’s place to seek his reaction, his family members said he had gone to a hospital as he had a fever.

A person close to the principal priest, on the condition of anonymity, said Ramappa was not allowing the priest to perform Chandi Homa as part of Navarathri.

“The trust is not allowing us to perform homas that we have been doing for years. Only family members are in the trust. We want there to be a trust involving local people, not one family,” he said.

However, members of the trust do not support this demand. Ravi Sigandur, one of the trustees and son of Ramappa, told The Hindu that the trust could not include others. “It is a deity of our family. With many people in the trust, we cannot take quick decisions and address urgent needs. However, there can be a coordination committee, which can advice us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has expressed disappointment over the incidents at the temple. “Such incidents shouldn’t have happened in the name of deity,” he told presspersons at Shikaripur on Sunday.

On the demand for Muzrai Temple taking over the temple, the CM said he would discuss the issue with Deputy Commissioner of Shivamogga and others.

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