How did people of Karnataka’s Berambadi village strategically redefine the nature of open defecation spaces?
The publicness of our practices, whether sacred or profane, continues to play out in Berambadi in Gundlupet taluk, Karnataka. A Ganesha temple was built at the centre of the village in 1994. Seeing the wide space near temple, we explored the possibility of a community toilet for the houses without space to build toilets. We were told by locals that there could not be a toilet near the temple despite availability of space. Photo: Anu Karippal
Further conversations with villagers revealed the long relationship the temple has had with sanitation. According to villagers, the place where Ganesha temple is currently located was an open defecation site, complemented by the presence of a banyan tree. Frustrated by how people dirtied the place closer to their homes, villagers decided to build a temple there. Religious guilt and fear was an easy trick to play with rather than making long speeches on cleanliness and awareness. The temple was built to shift the shit, and the people were unwilling to bring it back, even if it means a community toilet with four walls and a roof. Photo: Anu Karippal
In contrast, the Mahadeshwara temple is located at the outskirt of the village bordering a lake, farmland and, strangely, an open defecation site. People said there could be no toilet next to the Ganesha temple, so why would they take a dump near the Mahadeshwara temple? Photo: Anu Karippal
As villagers say, Mahadeshwara temple unlike Ganesha temple wasn’t built with the purpose of shifting an open defecation site. What was an idol built during the reign of Hoysalas was transformed into a big temple by the Lingayats in 2000 in order to prevent the panchayat from extracting water out of the lake, and to assert land sovereignty by the forward caste in Berambadi. Photo: Anu Karippal
When we asked a villager why people defecated near the temple and hold rituals while they opposed the idea of a community toilet near the Ganesha temple, he said, “People do things according to their convenience.
Such shifting narratives of space, of what is seen as sacred and profane and the people who make and unmake such meanings of space through their daily sanitation practices show the fluidity of space and the creative strategies people employ in getting an act done conveniently. Photo: Anu Karippal
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.