Ghaghretiya (Surendranagar): Religion and law do not seem to go side by side in this village of Surendranagar district. Gujarat is the only dry state in India, yet people of the village offer liquor to the deity of a small temple after the fulfilment of their wishes.
Welcome to Ghaghretiya: a village in the vicinity of the taluka centre at Limbdi, which is dominated by the Bharwad (cowherd) community. Here lies a small temple or 'deri', as called by the locals — and according to tradition, over 400 years old — in remembrance of 'Panchiya Dada', a Dalit of Valmiki sub-caste.
Gandabhai Kihala of the village says: "I have seen this temple since childhood. My parents told me that it is at least 400 years old. People believe 'Panchiya Dada' fulfils the wishes of everyone; so they present liquor as 'dada' used to drink a lot."
The temple is situated under a Neem tree. The lower branches of the tree are full of polythene pouches of liquor offered by the devotees. Villagers say that consumption of liquor offered at the temple by anyone is prohibited. "When the amount of liquor becomes excess at the temple, villagers organise a 'hawan' and pour the liquor into the fire," says Suresh Kihala, a villager.
The villagers are very particular about the liquor, and nobody is ready to tell who offers it and where do they get it from. "People from all over the state come to the temple. We are not here all the time to check who comes and from where do they get the liquor," says Pravin Patel, a villager.
The police answer the questions left unanswered by the villagers. "Four years ago, following an application, we had stopped the offering of liquor at the temple. Yet some villagers from the region continue the superstitious practice without our knowledge. But we will make sure that it does not happen from now on. This is a religious issue, so we have to handle it carefully," says Sub-Inspector P P Pirodiya of Limbdi police station.
Superintendent of Police Ashok Kumar Yadav says: "This is a totally illegal practice stopped by the police. But some people must have offered liquor at the temple without being noticed by us. We will take steps against anyone caught offering liquor there."
Village sarpanch Lakhuben Kihala says: "The tradition of offering liquor at the temple is age-old. Since it is a religious matter, we do not interfere. A few years ago, the police had come to the village and told the people to discontinue with the tradition. But no policeman has come after that to check if it has been discontinued or not."
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