[ Monday, April 10, 2006 10:14:53 am IANS ]
KENDRAPADA (ORISSA): Denied entry into a temple in Orissa by the upper castes, Dalits of a village have built a shrine of their own and appointed a Brahmin priest.
Chauriberhampur village on the outskirts of Kendrapada town in the coastal district of the same name is home to nearly 1,400 people from different castes as well as Muslims. It has a temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva where Dalits and other lower castes were being denied entry as part of an age-old practice.
"There are 900 people in the village who belong to the ‘hadi’ (scavenger) community and considered lower castes," said Dalit leader Abhumunya Naik.
Most of them clean streets, toilets and do other odd jobs.
"We have been worshipping Hindu goddess Maa Mangala in an open place. We decided to build a temple in that place for the deity," Naik told.
"People from our caste not only contributed financially but also built the 30-feet high temple. It was completed last month at a cost of nearly Rs.200,000."
Naik said Krupasindhu Patri, a Sanskrit scholar, had been appointed the priest of the temple at a monthly salary of Rs.1,000.
"We appointed a Brahmin priest because they know how to perform the rituals," he said.