A Bold Step: Dalit Priests in Kerala

WHEN 22 year-old Yedu Krishnan began his priestly functions at the sanctum sanctorum of the Shiva temple at Valanjavattom in Pathanamthitta district in Kerala, it was a historic first – a dalit priest at a major temple in Kerala.

The Travancore Devaswom Recruitment Board (TDRB) decided to appoint six dalits as priests along with 30 other non-Brahmin priests.  The Board, which manages more than 1200 temples, functions under the supervision of the state government.  The reservation for backward classes and dalits was instituted for the first time.

This is a major step taken to ensure that brahmanical  considerations are replaced with anti-caste democratic approaches to ensure that all Hindu believers get their due share in priestly functions. This step has been welcomed by all sections of public opinion in Kerala – except RSS sections. In a nasty incident some temple committee members tried to prevent a priest who belongs to the OBC ezhava caste who was appointed by the Board to the Chettikulangara temple, from assuming his duties. This is in contrast to the wide appreciation of the radical step taken by the LDF government all over the country. Kerala has shown once again that it is in the forefront of ensuring social justice and putting an end to caste discrimination. 

(October 10, 2017)

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