Updated: August 10, 2021 7:11:55 am
The post of melsanthi (chief priest) at the hill shrine, managed by the state-run Travancore Devaswom Board [TDB], has been traditionally held by Brahmins. In other temples under TDB, non-Brahmins, including people from Dalit communities, have been appointed as priests.
Last month, a few non-Brahmin priests of TDB temples had moved the Kerala High Court, challenging the Board’s notification inviting applications for the post of chief priest at Sabarimala after the TDB rejected their applications pointing out the caste factor.
The court did not stay the notifications but sought TDB’s views. The matter is likely to come before the devaswom bench of HC later this week.
Calling it an old demand of the outfit, BDJS state president Thushar Vellappally said, “Priests are not Brahmins in most temples of Kerala. The SNDP manages hundreds of temples, where eligible people from across a spectrum of Hindu community perform the rituals. Let the post of the priest at Sabarimala temple also be open to all eligible Hindus.”
Vellappally pointed out that the Supreme Court said in a 2002 order that there is no justification that only a Brahmin should be allowed to perform rituals at temples. He said the caste barrier is gone in most temples but Sabarimala after that verdict.
“It does not amount to violation of traditions at Sabarimala, where people from tribal communities are believed to have performed rituals centuries ago. We hope the state government also takes a favourable stand, allowing non-Brahmin priests at Sabarimala,’’ he said.
BJP state president K Surendran said the first task before the party is to ensure a consensus among various Sangh Parivar outfits. “We are not against the idea, but a consensus has to be reached among various organisations. BJP leaders, along with the Hindu Aikya Vedi (an umbrella outfit of various Sangh Parivar outfits), are already making such a move,” he said. “We can make our stand clear after reaching a consensus.”
Surendran, however, said he cannot comment on whether appointing non-Brahmins as priests at Sabarimala would amount to violation of traditions. “We have to discuss it among various organisations,’’ he said.
TDB president N Vasu said both HC and the Supreme Court had ratified TDB’s guideline that stated only Malayala Brahmins should be made priests at Sabarimala. “We are going by those guidelines. Now there is a case before the court, demanding non-Brahmins (as priests). We will go by the decision of the devaswom bench of HC. If the court says the guidelines should be changed, we are ready,’’ he said.
In 2018, the TDB under the last LDF government had taken a historical decision of appointing qualified Dalit priests in its temples.
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