Made Snana is a century-old ritual in India where low-caste Hindus roll in the leftover food from the meals of higher caste Brahmins. It is believed to be cure of such things as skin disorders and fulfillment of wishes, but a group of religious leaders have called for a ban on the practice. That has prompted violent attacks from those insisting on the continuation of the ritual.
Hundreds of people roll around in the leftovers of Brahmins meals each year. The leftovers are laid on the ground in plantain leaves for lower caste Hindus. The obvious message of the subordination of the lower caste does not appear to deter those of long to roll in food waste of the higher ranked Hindus.
Last month, anti-Snana activist KS Shivaramu was assaulted by supporters of the ritual. Bharatiya Janata Party official and senior minister VS Acharya – a Brahmin – defends the ritual. Below is a video of a fact-finder being assaulted by devotees of the ritual:
The question is whether the government should ban consensual religious rituals that the majority find offensive. I find this ritual one of the most grotesque displays that I have witnessed in the name of religion. However, free exercise means that, so long as a practice is consensual, adults should be allowed to follow their faiths. There are many demeaning acts that I find offensive in other religions. The question is whether rituals furthering stereotypes or castes can be banned on that basis alone.