Anantapuramu: A circular, on the preparation of Sri Dhagvanthari Maha Mruthyunjaya Shanthi Homam issued by Sri Krishnadevaraya University in Anantapuramu, stirred controversy. It is said the rituals are needed to stop the ‘untimely’ deaths of its employees. Several raised questions about the need for such an event by the university using public funds.
According to the circular released by Registrar Prof M.V. Lakshmaiah, as per the directions of the Vice Chancellor Prof. M. Ramakrishna Reddy, the homam was scheduled for 24 February, at 8.30 am at SK University Kreeda Vedhika. The university requested all the employees to participate voluntarily in the homam and try and contribute a minimum of Rs 500 for teaching staff and Rs 100 for the non-teaching staff towards the ritual’s expenditure.
The Mrityuanjaya Homam is usually performed to save one from a serious illness that can prove fatal. This ritual is said to cure chronic illness and extend life expectancy.
Responding to this, human rights activist Babu Gogineni criticised the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar. He wondered how a VC and a Registrar with PhDs spread superstition through such rituals. He urged the University Grants Commission (UGC) to take action on such actions.
Speaking to the media, VC Ramakrishna Reddy said that the administration was worried something was wrong at the University, and they planned the homam. "In the last one month, there were 5 deaths of the employees working in the university. Such untimely deaths had not happened even during the COVID pandemic. Someone suggested that we try a Mrithyunjaya Homam, and the employees also thought we should do it," VC said.
"While the administration did not want to use money from the varsity funds, we decided use our own money. Some of the employees wanted to contribute. Then we decided on an amount and released a circular. But there was no compulsion on giving money," VC added.
On this incident, students of the University protested not to conduct the homam on the campus, giving space for superstitious beliefs.