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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 14:18 GMT
Cult dance banned by Indian court
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC correspondent in Delhi

King Cobra
The Anand Marg use snakes as part of their dance routine
The Indian supreme court has banned a Hindu religious cult, the Anand Marg, from staging a dance ritual in public.

The majority vote upheld a state government order from 1987 in West Bengal, which banned the practice due to law and order concerns.

The cult maintains the Anger Dance - or Tandav - involving daggers, snakes and human bones is part of their religion.

The dance routine has been described as repulsive to public taste and morality and likely to cause fear and annoyance.

Daggers drawn

The state government of West Bengal said that it included the "carrying of human skulls with weapons like daggers or knives in the public roads of Calcutta."

It said the performance was "repulsive to public taste and morality" and "bound to cause fear in the mind of the people."

What is to be done and not to be done during religious rites should be decided by our religious gurus, not the courts
Krishnanda Abhadyut, Ananda Marg spokesman

The state government was appealing to the supreme court on Thursday to overturn an order made by the high court in Calcutta which said that Anand Marg should be allowed to perform their dance in public processions if they gave a written assurance to maintain peace and discipline.

The supreme court ruled that it was not convinced that performing the dance ritual in public was an essential part of the Anand Marg faith.

A spokesman for the Ananda Marg said religious matters should not be decided by courts.

"If it is banned it will be a curse on the religious freedom of the people of India," said Krishnanda Abhadyut.

The Anand Marg cult was founded by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar in the 1960s who was known as Anandmurtyji to his followers.

The cult - whose name in Hindi means 'Pathway to Bliss' is viewed with suspicion in India due to their unusual lifestyle.

That includes spending time in graveyards and cremation grounds.

The Anand Marg is accused of following occult practices even though they sometimes work for social welfare projects.

The group's Tandav dance has its origin in Hindu mythology.

The Hindu God Shiva is believed to have performed it after his wife's death .

The dance is believed to have destabilised Earth, Paradise and Hell.


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