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Dalit priest in Kerala opens door to temple – and change

Kerala Dalit priest Krishna, who is pursuing a postgraduate course in Sanskrit, is the youngest of two sons of Ravi and Leela couple, both daily wage earners. Krishna said he joined Thantra Vidya Peedam in Ernakulam at 12.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: October 10, 2017 8:31:00 am
travancore devaswom board, kerala temple recruitment, Dalit priest in Kerala, sabarimala temple, non-brahmin priests, kerala non-brahmin priests, kerala priests, india news, indian express Krishna being received at Shiva temple at Keecherival in Pathanamthitta.

When Yadu Krishna opened the sanctum sanctorum of Shiva temple at Keecherival in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district Monday, it was a dream come true, not only for the 22-year-old, but also for the SC Pulaya community he hails from.

Krishna is one of the six Dalit priests to have been recruited by Travancore Devaswom (Temple) Recruitment Board for temples under Travancore Devaswom Board. This is the first time in Kerala that appointment of temple priests is being done according to reservation norms followed for recruitment of government staff. While a few Dalit priests have been working in temples under the board, recruiting Dalits as per reservation norms was unprecedented.

A native of Chalakkudy in Thrissur, Krishna says, “I never felt any discrimination over caste. For the past five years, I was working as a priest at Devi Temple at Valiyakulangara in Ernakulam district. Today, when I left, many non-Dalit visitors to the temple turned emotional.”

Krishna, who is pursuing a postgraduate course in Sanskrit, is the youngest of two sons of Ravi and Leela couple, both daily wage earners. Krishna said he joined Thantra Vidya Peedam in Ernakulam at 12. “Since the age of 15, I have been working as a priest at a temple in my village.’’

Travancore Devaswom Board Commissioner C P Rama Raja Prema Prasad said the newly-recruited priests have been given 15 days’ time to join the temples allotted to them. Kerala Hindu Aikya Vedi general secretary E S Biju said that in the past, there have been protests from certain quarters against appointing Dalits as priests. “However, now there is a change in the mindset of people. The concern of the faithful is that the priests should be well-versed in temple matters and should lead a life becoming of a priest,’’ he said.

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