Shattering thousands of years of caste driven Hindu society norms, Yedu Krishnan has become the first Dalit priest in Kerala to assume his duties at the Manappuram Lord Shiva Temple in Thiruvalla.
The 22-year-old Yedu Krishnan is one of the six Dalit youths to have been recruited as a priest by the Travancore Devaswom Board, which is responsible for managing nearly 1,248 shrines across the state, including the revered Lord Aiyappa Temple at Sabarimala.
Son of daily wage earners Leela and P.K. Ravi, Krishnan had undergone a 10-year training in tantrashastra to become eligible for the post. He is among six Dalits chosen out of the 36 non-Brahmins recommended for appointment as priests by the Kerala Devaswom Recruitment Board.
A Dalit being accepted as a priest is unprecedented for this is the first time in Kerala that appointment of temple priests is being done in accordance to reservation norms followed for recruitment of government staff. Although a few Dalits have been working in temples under the board, recruiting Dalits as per reservation norms was absolutely unheard of.
A native of Chalakkudy in Thrissur district, Krishna on being appointed as the first Dalit priest in the state said:
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I never felt any discrimination over caste. For the past five years, I was working as a priest at Devi Temple at Valiyakulangara in Ernakulam district. Today, when I left, many non-Dalit visitors to the temple turned emotional.
Travancore Devaswom Board Commissioner C P Rama Raja Prema Prasad said that a period of 15 days have been allotted to all the new recruits to join the designated temples. According to Kerala Hindu Aikya Vedi general secretary E S Biju, there were some voices of protest in the past, but with time people are changing their mindsets for the better:
However, now there is a change in the mindset of people. The concern of the faithful is that the priests should be well-versed in temple matters and should lead a life becoming of a priest.