Thursday, February 12, 2009


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mohan Gupta
Date: Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 11:28 AM
Subject: [prohindu] Fw: [haindavakeralam] Tirupati to train Dalits to be priests

Tirupati to train Dalits to be priests
M. C. Rajan

Following in the footsteps of Tamil Nadu, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam
(TTD) has decided to admit Dalits to its Vedic school to train priests from
the community.

"We encourage Dalits to join the institution where they can learn the
ancient wisdom of the country. We will admit Dalits from the next academic
year," said an official of the cash- rich TTD. With the TTD having opened
the gates of the institution to Dalits, priestly functions will no longer be
the exclusive preserve of one community. A Dalit priest performing pooja in
a temple may not be far off.

The TTD administers the richest temple in the world. It also runs a Vedic
school, the Sri Venkateswara Vedic Pathashala, at Dharmagiri atop the
Tirumala hill, about 4 km from the Venkateswara temple complex.

The school offers two streams of programmes for which the medium of
instruction is Sanskrit.

While one is a five- year programme, the other is a longer course lasting 12
years. Students who have passed Class V are eligible for both courses.

Till now, the Veda pathashala (school) accommodated only Brahmins. "At
present, there are 600 students—all Brahmins—in both programmes. A few
students from other communities are accommodated in a special training
programme to train people to help village priests.

The situation will change in the coming academic session," said the

When asked why the non- Brahmins had been excluded from the courses so far,
he said "the demand had come only from the Brahmins". The officials at TTD
said the candidates would be invited through advertisements in leading
newspapers. Qualified applicants would then be selected for the courses.

In a parallel move, the TTD- run Sri Venkateswara Employees Training Academy
(SVETA) had launched a project to train priests from different communities,
such as Scheduled Tribes known as Girijans and fishermen, last year.

"Soon, we will begin the programme for Dalits, too. The first batch will
have 50 candidates," said SVETA director B. S. Reddy adding that the
intention was to equip and give proper orientation to local priests in
performing rituals. The aim was to make the profession of priesthood more

Under the intellectual guidance of late social reformer E. V. Ramasamy
'Periyar' and efforts of M. Karunanidhi's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Tamil
Nadu had taken steps towards removing the exclusivity associated with
priestly functions at least 37 years ago.

In May 1972, Karunanidhi's government had issued an order providing for
appointment of archaka s from all communities, but the ordinance was stayed
by the Supreme Court.

In May 2007, the government had started six training institutes - two for
Vaishnavites in Chennai and Trichy; and four for Saivites in Madurai,
Tiruvannamalai, Palani and Tiruchendur. These launched one- year certificate
programmes to produce qualified archaka s from all communities to serve in

However, even after completing the course successfully, the students from
these institutions are yet to be appointed to prominent temples in Tamil


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