Breaking the Barriers: Kerala’s First Dalit Priest Takes Charge
“It is a silent revolution and a model for others to follow"
October 11, 2017
Chanting mantras, Yedu Krishnan, the first dalit priest in a Hindu temple in Kerala, stepped into the sanctum sanctorum of the Manappuram Lord Shiva Temple in Thiruvalla, in Pathanamthitta district on Monday.
Breaking barriers and brahminical despotism, the Kerala Devaswom Recruitment Board recently recommended the appointment of 36 non-Brahmins, including six dalits, in various temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board. Yedu Krishnan, who had undergone 10 years of training in Tantra Shastra, is one among the six dalits.
Yedu, a final year postgraduate student in Sanskrit, hails from Koratty in Thrissur district. He has been performing Pooja since the age of 15 at a local temple near his house.
Referring to the recruitment of the 36 non-brahmin priests in the state, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran termed it as a “silent revolution.”
“It is a silent revolution and a model for others to follow,” Kadakampally Surendran said in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.
“A new history has been scripted by ensuring reservation as enshrined in the Constitution with the appointment of dalits as priests,” he added.
On October 5, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages at least 1,248 shrines in the State including the famous Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, released the list of shortlisted candidates for appointment as temple priests. 36 out of the 62 candidates are from dalit and backward communities.
The selection of candidates for appointment as temple priests was, for the first time, based on the reservation norms that are followed for recruitment of government staff. According to the norms of the Kerala Public Service Commission, 32 percent of vacancies have to be reserved for candidates belonging to SC/ST and OBC categories. The recruitment process was done as per these norms.
“Earlier, we had some priests from backward communities who made it to the list through merit. The Travancore Devaswom Board came into existence in 1949 and the demand for reservation for Dalits in the appointment of priests has been persisting for several decades. Previous attempts to meet the demand had faced stiff resistance from certain quarters. But now we have made it a reality,’’ said Rajagopalan Nair , Travancore Devaswom Board chairman.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) is one among the five temple boards in Kerala – Travancore Devasom Board, Cochin Devaswom Board, Malabar Devaswom Board, Guruvayur Devaswom Board and Koodalmanikyam Devaswom Board. TDB is an autonomous elected body constituted as per the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act XV of 1950 and took over the temples which were under the control of the Maharaja of Travancore until independence.
Noted actor Kamal Hassan and DMK leader M K Stalin took to social media to appreciate the historic step by the Left Democratic Front government of Kerala.
"Bravo Travancore Devaswom board… Salute to Kerala CM Mr Pinarayi Vijayan for appointing 36 non-Brahmin priests… Periyar's dream realised!," Kamal Hassan said in a Facebook post.
Congratulating the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, MK Stalin tweeted: “Congratulations @CMOKerala for ground-breaking achievement – appointment of non-brahmins, including Dalits, as Travancore Devaswom Archagas”.
First published in Newsclick.
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