Monday, August 21st, 2006

Lucknow – Streams of milk poured out of most temples across Uttar Pradesh Monday morning as long queues of devotees as well as the curious offered the liquid to the stone idols in the wake of a rumour that the deities were ’sipping milk’.

News that idols were sipping milk first broke out Sunday evening in Bareilly town, about 250 km from here. After television channels began flashing visuals of people offering milk at a particular temple in the town, there was a sudden rush of people at temples in towns across this sprawling state.

The superstition caught several towns in a big way, including Varanasi, Allahabad, Meerut, Aligarh, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur as well as Dehradun and Haridwar in neighbouring Uttaranchal.

It was almost a repeat of a similar spectacle witnessed in 1995 when blind faith led millions of Hindus to offer milk to Lord Ganesha in temples across India and even abroad.

The current incident is suspected to have been prompted by reports of seawater around a Muslim dargah in Mumbai turning ’sweet’.

However, experts term the ‘milk-sipping’ phenomenon a ‘hoax’ that has worked simply due to people’s ‘blind faith.’

Lucknow University Geology professor M.P. Singh said: ‘It is very natural for any stone idol to absorb any liquid – and the older the stone, the more it absorbs.’

V.K. Singh of King George’s Medical University here termed it as ‘nothing other than capillary action’. He told IANS: ‘Only if people had the sense to realise that beyond a point, all the milk that is poured on deities simply flows away.’

Significantly, even Swami Muktitanand, the head of Ram Krishna Mission, a devout Hindu organisation, dismissed the supposed phenomenon as ‘baseless’ and ‘unscientific’. He said: ‘Spirituality should not be totally devoid of scientific basis or understanding.’

Lucknow District Magistrate Ramendra Tripathi termed it a ‘hoax’ and declared that action would be taken against ‘rumour-mongers’.

But people continued to rush to temples in their neighbourhood.

‘I don’t care what the district magistrate says; let him first question the emergence of ’sweet’ sea water around a dargah in Mumbai, then stop us from offering milk to Hindu deities in temples here,’ protested Abhishek Tiwari, a government employee who spent the night at a local Ganesha temple here.

‘I saw the milk being sipped by Lord Shiva whom I offered a jug-full last night,’ claimed Shushma, a middle-aged school teacher who had gone to a temple along with her two grownup children. ‘It is a divine miracle,’ she exclaimed.