In a first, two non-Brahmin women priests took charge at the 900-year-old Vitthal Rukmani temple in Pandharpur on Friday and performed early morning service (Kakad aarti) in the presence of members of the temple’s managing committee and chief executive officer (CEO) Sanjay Teli.
The temple in Solapur district has been in news ever since its managing committee recently decided to appoint women and non-brahmin priests. For centuries, the temple has been the focal point of the Varkhari community, but priests have always been male members from the two Brahmin families of Badve and Utpat.
Recently, the Supreme Court rejected the hereditary rights of Badve and Utpat families to perform rituals at the temple.
Following this, the state government stepped in and set up a managing committee, which invited applications from all castes and women for appointment as priests.
Around 199 applications were received, including from women.
The process encountered stiff resistance from sections of the powerful Varkari community, who said it was against the tenets of the age-old tradition of the temple. In fact, the temple committee had delayed announcing the names of successful candidates, instead referring the matter to the state government’s law and judiciary department.
Finally, the temple committee declared the names of successful candidates a fortnight back. Special training was given to them in various rituals of the temple.
Early Friday morning, both the women priests conducted the first rituals associated with the Rukmani temple, while other priests conducted the same for the shrine of Vitthal.