Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Justice in the hands of God

Justice is also dispensed most effectively by taking oaths before the god.

Kanipakkam, fifteen kilometers away, has a Vinayaka temple. There is the tradition of people never uttering a falsehood before the god. In local disputes the inviolate final way of settling disputes is the ‘Kaanipaakam Saakshi’. The suspected party is brought to Kanipakkam to repeat his or her words. This, and even the threat of having to go there to testify, has solved more crimes than the police have. At Kaanipaakam no one lies. They believe that if a lie is uttered there, then god dispenses his own justice.

Once when my cell phone was stolen from home, I shouted on the street, claiming I would call the police, and that they would fingerprint everyone. I tried doing some detection myself by asking everyone whom they saw entering my home in that two hour period I was away. Our neighbour Gaya called me aside, and told me that all this would not work and that no one would mention any name to me. He said I should talk to the people and tell them that I was arranging for a tractor to take everyone to Kanipakkam for them to attest in the temple. And then I should watch. I did as he suggested, with some modifications. That night I found the cell phone unceremoniously tossed back into my house through the window. In another case,

Sarojamma lost money in a meeting of the women of the local self-help group. She said that the coming Sunday all the ladies should get together and go to the local Anjeneyalu temple in Varadappanaidupeta in wet clothes. There they would pour another mug of water over themselves and light camphor, and attest their innocence with their hand over the lit camphor. The next night the money was found deposited on her doorstep. I asked her what would have happened if the thief had just come to the temple and lied. She said the god would have taken care of it. There are stories of how those who lied before the god finally had bad endings. In Talakona, famous for a temple and a waterfall, it is said that the water falls only on those who are ‘pure’.

This deep faith is not shaken even through ill actions. An unthinkable theft of the gold jewels of Sibbaalamma from the village temple happened. The thieves were not caught, and the goddess now has brass ornaments. But that did not alter any basic faith and belief.

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