Madurai: The district collector of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, has ordered clothes for bare-chested girls who are worshipped as goddesses in a temple.
“We informed the villages that the girls have to be properly clothed. They can wear jewelry over their clothes,” said Madurai collector K Veera Raghava Rao, who has also ordered the administration to ensure the girls were not harassed or abused.
The bizarre temple ritual forces young girls to spend 15 days bare-chested in the care of a male priest. The collector issued the order on September 26.
Only girls who haven’t reached puberty are sent to the temple.
“It is an ancient custom. Parents send their girls voluntarily,” the collector explained.
Rao asserted, however, that a team of officials investigated and found no abuse of children at the temple. “”They treat them as goddesses,” he added.
More than 60 villages that participate in the ritual worship the girls like goddesses, ndtv.com reported.
The collector has instructed these communities to ensure that the girls are fully covered.
Ramya Sriram, a child rights activist, says such a ritual cannot be allowed in this age of child abuse.
This will haunt children psychologically in future. Some may forget some may not. The can have the ritual but with clothes on,” she asserted.
A video recorded by online portal The Covai Post reveals bare chested girls walking into the temple with offerings. Another show the girls playfully taking a bath with water from a small tank inside the temple area.