In Kerala temples non-brahmin priests are appointed in 50% of vacancies

(The then DMK government of Tamil Nadu under the chief minister Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi enacted a legislation for appointment of non-brahmins as Archagas in Hindu Agama Temples and two training schools were started to train non-brahmins. But the act could not be implemented as the Brahmins approached the Supreme Court and the case is pending. In the meanwhile the news that the Kerala state has appointed non-brahmins as priests in Hindu Temples is heartening)
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala temples are chanting a new mantra of inclusiveness, thanks to a silent revolution inside the sanctum sanctorum of hundreds of temples in the state.

This move, powerful enough to break the last bastion of casteism, has already ushered in many non-brahmins to preside over pujas and kriyas hitherto handled only by priests who were brahmins by birth.

In the last two months, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) filled up 50 out of the 100 posts for pujaris (priests) with non-brahmins, who will soon start performing rituals in shrines assigned to them among the 2,000 temples under TDB.

TDB had conducted a recruitment drive six months ago and interviewed hundreds of applicants belonging to all castes and they selected 199 pujaris, out of which 40% were non- brahmins. “Even our ancient scriptures say a person becomes a brahmin through his deeds and life-style than by birth,’’ said additional chief secretary K Jayakumar.

Though caste is no bar for becoming a shanti (priest), TDB, in its latest notification has stated that the applicant must have an elementary knowledge of tantra-shastra, Sanskrit and a certificate from a Board-approved tantri (senior priest). “He also should be a Malayali Hindu who is aware of the braminical tradition.’’ said Krishnan Nambudiri, general secretary of Tantra Vidya Peetam, Aluva, a member of the interview board who selected the pujaris.

“Many non-brahmin candidates did equally well in terms of recitation of mantras and knowledge of tantras. They all attached tremendous aspirational value to these posts,’’ he said. But some community members are upset at the entry of non-brahmin priests, especially when many poverty stricken brahmin families have no option but to subsist on dakshina. “For brahmins, this is not just a job. In spite of all odds, the pujaris are still doing it out of sheer faith in God. The wisdom is passed on from father to son in an oral tradition. The belief should be inculcated from childhood and the sanctity begins from home and family first,’’ said Subramanian Potti, officer bearer of Vaidika Samrakshana Samiti.

Poet Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri said it is not varnam (caste) but vasana (inclination) that matters. “According to vedas , any person can conduct a puja, but it is important that he becomes a brahmin first, not just externally but internally. The devasom board should rehabilitate impoverished brahmins by providing them clerical positions before opening up this sector,’’ he said.

- (Courtesy: The Times of India,  12th March 2012)

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