Non-Brahmin priest awaits Sabari entry

ALAPPUZHA: While Kerala gets lauded for appointing 39 non-Brahmin priests including six Dalits at Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) temples, the non-Brahmin priests are still waiting to enter the sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) of Sabarimala, the richest of them. Though a non-Brahmin priest, Vishnu Narayanan, applied for the post of Melsanthi (chief priest) at Sabarimala for the upcoming season, the TDB kept it in abeyance. The verdict on his appeal is now pending before the High court.  The TDB shortlisted 14 Brahmin candidates for Sabarimala and 12 for Malikappuram on October 5 for the October 17 draw.

Mr Narayan, now the Melsanthi of Pallam Subrahmanya Swamy Temple, also known Dakshina Kashi, feels discriminated against for being non-Brahmin. "The vigilance officials came to my home and the temple where I work. They were so happy with my prospects," he said.  "I am little apprehensive at the delay in court verdict after the hearing on October 3. If it comes after the draw, it will be a denial of justice." He has almost 19 years of experience as Melsanthi. The ad, inviting applications from Malayala Brahmins, was in violation of the 2014 government order against caste as criteria.

"My guru Mathanam Vijayan Thantri had been proscribed from the list in 1983 because of his caste. He died not fulfilling his dream in 2008. I want to take it forward," he says.  However, TDB, caught in the recent non-Brahmin priest controversy at Chettikulangara, is against non-Brahmins at major temples like Sabarimala before they prove their dedication.  TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan says they have a "special decorum" to be followed.

Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran in a statement said there was a practice of appointing low-quality priests from upper class receiving kickbacks. "With the Kerala Devaswom Recruitment Board (KDRB) coming into being, it has stopped," he said. He thanked media for the silent revolution. It was Deccan Chronicle which broke the story in a report titled ‘First Dalit priest gets posting in TDB temple’ on October 1. He said the selection was strictly on merit. 

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