Kerala temple boards discontinue oleander flowers in rituals in shrines over toxicity concerns

Thiruvananthapuram, May 9 (PTI) In a significant decision, two major Devaswom Boards, which manage the majority of temples in Kerala, made a change to their offerings on Thursday by discontinuing the use of Arali flowers (oleander) in their sacred rituals.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and Malabar Devaswom Board took the decision after concerns arose about the toxic nature of these flowers, which could harm humans and animals.

P S Prasanth, the president of the TDB, announced this decision regarding the temples under its jurisdiction after a meeting of the board here on Thursday.

“It has been decided to completely avoid using Arali flowers in the naivedya and prasad offerings in temples under the TDB. Instead, other flowers like tulsi, thechi (Ixora), jasmine, jamanti (hibiscus), and rose will be used,” Prasanth told reporters here.

The TDB is entrusted with the task of administrating 1248 temples in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore.

Malabar Devaswom Board President M R Murali said the use of Arali flowers for rituals has been banned in over 1,400 temples under its jurisdiction.

“Although the Arali flower is not widely used in rituals in temples, its use is banned considering the safety of devotees. Studies have found that the flower contains toxic substances,” Murali told PTI.

He said an order in this regard will be issued on Friday.

The decisions stem from incidents reported in Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta, sources said.

A woman in Alappuzha died recently after allegedly consuming Arali flowers and leaves from her neighbourhood.

There were also tragic reports of a cow and calf dying in Pathanamthitta two days ago after eating oleander leaves.

With this change, the temples aim to ensure the safety of their offerings and the well-being of those who partake in them, TDB sources said.

According to some studies, oleander, a tough and pretty shrub, grows well in tropical and subtropical areas.

The studies suggest that inside their leaves and flowers, oleanders have cardenolides, which can affect the heart of animals and humans, making it beat stronger.

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