Tuesday, 16 May , 2006, 16:30
Chennai: Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday decided to pass an order allowing people belonging to all Hindu communities with the required training and qualification to become archakas (priests) in Hindu temples.
The cabinet meeting headed by Chief Minister M Karunanidhi took the decision based on the verdict given by the Supreme Court in 2002. The decision was taken after analysing the opinion of the state legal department and receiving that of the advocate general on the issue, an official release said in Chennai.
At present only the Brahmin community members are eligible to become archakas.
The government order would pave the way to fulfill the last wish of eminent social reformist and the founder of Dravidar Kazhagam, Periyar E V Ramasamy, the release added.
Periyar wished that people belonging to all the Hindu communities should be allowed to become archakas in Hindu temples. A government order was passed in 1972 allowing all communities to become archakas, when Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister.
However, it was stayed by the Supreme Court, following an appeal against the implementation of the law. The non-implementation of the order was described as “a thorn in Periyar’s heart” as he passed away without seeing his last wish fulfilled.
Dravidar Kazhagam president K Veeramani has welcomed the decision of DMK government and said the party would celebrate the decision as a grand festival. "Today was a revolutionary day in Tamil Nadu’s history and Tamils all over the world were appreciating the decision of the state government", he added.
Move to end Brahmin monopoly
Arun Ram, DNA, May 16, 2006
TN government may issue an order to allow Hindus of any caste to become priests
CHENNAI: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M Karunanidhi's return to power appears to have re-ignited the octogenarian's attempt to take his party back to its basics. After convening the first meeting of his new cabinet on Tuesday, Karunanidhi said his government is planning to issue an order to allow Hindus of any caste to be temple priests.
"The government will come out with the order after consulting the law department and the advocate general," Karunanidhi said.
The idea is not new and may not really bring non-Brahmins in large numbers to the sanctum sanctorum of the rich and famous temples under the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) department. Politically, however, it helps the DMK to rediscover its ideological moorings. Hindu rituals, like marriages, without Brahmin priests were part of the self-respect movement of Periyar EV Ramaswamy in the 1930s – which formed the building blocks of the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and later the DMK.
Karunanidhi brought in a similar legislation called the Archakas Act in the early 1970s, but it could not be implemented as the Supreme Court put some riders. However, a Supreme Court judgment in October 2002 that Brahmins do not have the monopoly of performing pujas in the temple and "anyone well-versed and properly trained" could be appointed as the temple priest will give Karunanidhi's latest plan a legal backing.
The move has expectedly irked the traditional Brahmin priests. Says South India Purohiths' Association president Arcot Narasimhan: "The government move is condemnable, but not as a matter of caste. To be a temple priest, it needs training and penance through several generations. A quick-trained person cannot make a priest, whichever caste he belongs to."
Says sociologist MSS Pandian: "One of the last things Periyar said was that the Brahmin monopoly over Hindu priesthood was a thorn in his heart. Karunanidhi was paying respect to the father of the self-respect movement when he brought in the legislation in the early 1970s. The latest is a symbolic gesture with importance to the non-Brahmin community."
Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy welcomes the move "since Hindu priesthood was historically the Brahmin's acquisition and not an exclusive right," but doubts Karunanidhi's real intentions. "Any good Hindu will welcome this at the onset, but Karunanidhi's motivation could be to take another potshot at the Brahmin."
Politically it helps the DMK to rediscover its ideological moorings
Hindu rituals like marriages without Brahmin priests were part of the self-respect movement of Periyar EV Ramaswamy in the 1930s
Karunanidhi had also brought in a similar legislation in the early 1970s
However it could not be implemented as the Supreme Court put some riders
Caste issue in temple: DMK to pass order
Veeraraghav T M, CNN-IBN May 16, 2006 at 22:59
Chennai: In the first meeting of Karunanidhi's cabinet after the party came to power, the cabinet has decided to pass a government order to ensure that people from any caste and not just Brahmins can become priests in Hindu temples.
The decision is a reminder of the core Dravidian ideology of DMK.
DMK had brought in a legislation on this issue way back in 1972. But some provisions of that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1975.
In 1974 optional prayers in Tamil and not just Sanskrit was also introduced.
Many years later in 2002 after hearing a case from Kerala the supreme court had categorically ruled that caste cannot be a barrier and anyone trained to perform the rituals can become a priest.
In Tamil Nadu where the ministry for Hindu religious and charitable endowments governs majority of the temples, the DMK says this move is aimed to ensure anyone qualified is not denied a chance because of caste.
According to DMK organisation secretary T K S Elangovan, while non-Brahmins have become priests, temple priesthood still remains the bastion of Brahmins.
45 year old Devadirajan's family have been priests for six generations; his argument is that inherited training is the only qualification for becoming a priest and tradition cannot be broken.
Devadirajan said, “We have been learning this for generations and we need to go to patshalas for this and only Brahmins can be trained in these patshala".
That is what the cabinet's decision hopes to change.
The question though is whether it is possible to practically implemented it in the core of the Hindu temple and hence at the heart of the Hindu society.