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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Hindus mourn 'monkey god'

Hundreds of people have attended the funeral of a monkey which became revered as a divine incarnation of a Hindu god in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.


The monkey was quite old and both its hind legs were paralysed

Narendra Reddy,
campaigner
Animal rights campaigners say the monkey died of starvation and exhaustion after being trapped in a temple for a month by over-zealous worshippers.

The animal was cremated in Anantapur district, 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of the state capital, Hyderabad, on Sunday.

It had not eaten for three weeks.

Last rites were performed by priests in the village of Timmiganipally in the presence of hundreds of devotees who had come to believe that the monkey was a reincarnation of the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman.

Garlanded

One animal rights activist said his group's efforts to save the monkey had failed because of the blind faith of the people.

The monkey's death came a day after he and others tried to move the animal out of the temple, but were prevented by villagers.

The monkey, which was found perched on top of an idol of Hanuman a month ago, attracted hundreds of devotees every day from surrounding villages, as well as from the neighbouring state of Karnataka.

Devotees showered the monkey with fruit and flowers and worshipped it around the clock.

'Exploited'

Locals said they believed that Lord Hanuman was visiting the village, as the temple had stopped daily rituals after a dispute between two groups of residents.

But animal rights campaigners complained that the animal was being mistreated.

They filed a petition in the state's High Court saying the monkey had been forcibly confined in the temple.

The group also alleged that people's religious feelings were being exploited to make money.

The court then ordered the local administration to rescue the monkey - but villagers prevented officials from taking him for treatment in time.

See also:

29 Aug 02 | South Asia
17 May 01 | South Asia
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