Recently, Kerala witnessed a historic change when Yedu Krishnan — the first Dalit — opened the sanctum sanctorum of Shiva temple at Keecherival in Pathanamthitta district. Krishnan is one of six Dalits, who were recruited as head priests this year by the state-appointed Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages around 1,250 temples across Kerala. It certainly heralded a change against centuries of prejudice against Dalits in India.
Now, Hindu Aikya Vedi, a Sangh outfit, has come out in favour of appointing all “qualified” persons irrespective of caste as priests in all temples, including the famed Lord Ayyappa temple.
The Sangh outfit said anyone having knowledge of ‘pooja’ and ‘tantra’ as prescribed by the tradition, is eligible to enter the sanctum sanctorum of shrines and perform rituals. Aikya Vedi state general secretary E S Biju believes a person becomes a ‘brahmin’ through his deeds, though he is not so by his birth.
“There is no need to consider caste pedigree as a base to appoint priests in shrines. The non-brahmins, who have prescribed qualifications, are eligible to enter the portals of sanctum sanctorum and perform pooja in any temple, including the famed Sabarimala and Guruvayur shrines,” Biju told PTI.
He said despite protests in the past, there is a change in the mindset of people. More than cast, people are more concerned that the priests should be well-versed in temple matters and should lead a life becoming of a priest.
The CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala believes the appointment of 36 non-Brahmins, including six Dalits, as priests in temples in the state as a “silent revolution” and a model for others to follow.