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First Non-Brahmin Appointed as Priest in Tamil Nadu Temple, Fulfilling Karunanidhi's 2006 Reform

Image for representation only. (News18 illustration)

Image for representation only. (News18 illustration)

The Supreme Court in 2015 had allowed members of all castes to become priests in all public temples in the state.

Chennai: As DMK chief M Karunanidhi lays in bed fighting for his life, a reform for which he has battled since 1970 has finally taken root. For the first time in Tamil Nadu, a temple in Madurai has broken caste barriers and appointed a non-Brahmin priest.

This is the result of a social justice movement which has been vocal about the post of priest being made open to people from all castes in public temples. It was in 1970 that Karunanidhi had first passed an order to clear the way for members of all castes to become priests. The order was stuck down by the Supreme Court.

But in 2006, Karunanidhi once again passed the order, and this time, the Supreme Court upheld the decision. The DMK chief said it was done to “remove the thorn in the heart” of social reformer Periyar. Breaching this sanctum sanctorum dominated by the Brahmin community for centuries was one of the most important aims of the Dravidian movement.

Following the 2006 order, 206 men, including 24 belonging to SC/ST communities, underwent training in many temples owned by Tamil Nadu’S Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department and completed Junior Priest certification.

On March 1 this year, Maraisamy (name changed), who was one among the 206 to undergo training, was appointed as a priest in Madurai’s Thallakulam Aiyappan temple. This order has given hope to other non-Brahmin priests who are awaiting appointment.

The name of the priest has been kept under wraps by the government fearing repercussions if people visiting the temple learn that the priest is not a Brahmin.

A senior HR and CE official said the appointment was being made as per Agamas Shastra (the manual for worship, temple building and rituals) of the individual temple.