“The temple priest is expected to be a devout Hindu, with knowledge of scripture and tradition. With a non-Hindu government it is doubtful whether the choice of candidates for the temple priesthood has been conducted rigorously and with transparency.” – Vijaya Rajiva
The recent move of the Congress led government of Kerala to hire 50 trained non-Brahman temple priests has to be viewed with some caution. On the face of it the move can be lauded as social reform. But it can also be part of a social engineering process that aims to attack Hindu religious traditions in toto, moving in planned fashion from one target to the next. The Hindu Samaj must treat each of these moves on a case by case basis. Of the 50 candidates some candidates no doubt will be sincere and in earnest and some will be there for economic reasons (also acceptable since they are valid reasons) and at least a few will be stooges of the government and the Devaswom Board, which is largely staffed by anti-Hindu individuals (often with misleading Hindu names!). In 2007 the Minister for Devaswom affairs was a member of the Communist Party (CPM). These newly hired priests will function under the directions of this self-same government, now a Congress led one, but essentially also anti-Hindu. A principled stand alone taken in favour of non-Brahman priests can be counter productive and the Hindu Samaj should be alert to the politics of social engineering.
The Devaswom as a body that managed temple affairs came into existence as early as the 17th century in Kerala. There was a proliferation of them and it was only in the early 19th century under the Maharani Regent Gowri Parvati Bayi (1815-1829) that a royal decree was passed forming a Devaswom Board and most of the temples were brought under its control. This marked a shift from private groupings / families exercising control over the temples to that of state power vested in the royal family.
However, the last ruler His Highness Shri Chitira Thirunal Bala Rama Varma (1931-1949) was concerned that the Dewaswom Board should remain a Hindu organisation that would serve Hindu interests in the matter of temple administration and welfare. Therefore, in 1949 when he signed the instrument of Accession to the Indian Union he signed in a Covenant that would protect the Board from unnecessary interference from both state and central governments in independent India. The Board by this Covenant would remain with 3 members who were clearly Hindu and their term would be for 4 years. This was incorporated into The Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act of 1950 by which the state government would manage temple affairs via the Devaswom Board. Hence, both by law and convention the Board members would be sworn in as Hindus. Needless to say, the successive governments did not follow this rule except as a formality since Communist members could not actually be Hindus simultaneously given their ideology. And in the case of Congress governments the Hindu names often concealed allegiance to the ‘secularism’ of the Congress party, especially after the rise to power of the Italian Catholic, Sonia Gandhi, at the centre in 1998.
In 2007 emboldened by political events on the national scene, the secular LDF Kerala Government received permission from the Central government to change the composition of the Devaswom Board. The number 3 was changed to 5 incorporating a member from the scheduled caste / scheduled tribe (so-called ) and a woman, ostensibly to promote social reform.
There was a dual purpose here. Under the rubric of social change and in order to secure a vote bank from the non-Brahman groups the Kerala government tried to extend its already existing control over Hindu institutions.This control had previously been given to them by the misguided fathers of the Indian Constitution which was clearly discriminatory towards the Hindus, since the other religious groups (Muslims and Christians) were left untouched. The Kerala government’s policy was to further extend control over the Hindu temples and one of the ploys was to throw the temples open to non-Hindus and later the training of non-Brahmans to become temple priests. In 2007 social groups like the NSS (Nair Service Society, not particularly known for any Hindutva leanings) objected. In regard to the first move it was defeated and in regards to the second move the so-called reform went forward, even though in 2010 the NSS and other organisations (mainly Hindu) objected.
Here again the anti-Hindu government throws as much as it can against the Hindus with the hope that some of it will stick, even if some do not. Throwing open Hindu temples to non-Hindus IS CLEARLY NOT THE SAME as opening the temples to all Hindus. The Temple Entry Proclamation by the Maharajah Chittira Thirunal in 1936 was the right way to go for Hindus. But here the situation is different. Churches and mosques are primarily places for the faithful to congregate and offer prayer, whereas the Hindu temple is where the consecrated deity resides, the consecration accompanied by deep Vedic ritual. It follows that non-Hindus who do not accept this tradition cannot be given free entry to what is considered a hallowed place. Temples are not tourist centres or parks or museums, where the public can roam around for entertainment, they are hallowed grounds. Those who ardently desire to enter can easily return to the Hindu fold by undergoing a shuddhi ceremony. The recent ones conducted by Agniveer are good examples of tasteful, short and meaningful ceremonies. Thereafter the individual accepts the sanctity of the Vedas and the presence of the consecrated deity housed in the temple.
The present writer has raised an alarm in two previous articles and pointed out that the aim of the motley crew of deracinated Hindus, Macaulayites, Congresswallahs and the axis of Communists-Islamists-Churchists has always been to defeat Hinduism by various ploys. 
This has been the ancient dream of the Christian West and is being touted by deracinated Hindus. It is understandable that someone like Arundhati Roy (a Christian) can hide behind the rubric of her questionable Leftism (it is reported that she built a large luxury bungalow on notified tribal land!) to fulminate against the Brahmanic Hindu state. Like Monier Williams the identification of Hinduism with Brahmanism is a non-starter. Nevertheless, the Hindu Samaj should be extremely vigilant. The phrase ‘the mighty fortress of Brahmanism’ was first put forward by Monier Williams (author of the Sanskrit English Dictionary, 1899). His exact quote is:
“When the walls of the mighty fortress of Brahmanism are encircled, undermined and finally stormed by the soldiers of the cross, the victory of Christianity must be signal and complete ” (Modern India and Indians, p. 247).
In his ignorance this colonialist had set up a straw man called Brahmanism. His Macaulayist followers and other elements have followed suit. It is Hinduism with its Vedic heritage that is their real target, the word ‘Brahmanism’ being only a catchy logo. This Vedic heritage is an ongoing project which all members of the Hindu Samaj have upheld, from the aam admi to the acharyas, gurus, temples, mathams, etc. The Vedas set up a dedicated priesthood that would carry out the rituals of prayer and devotion to the terrestrial, atmospheric, and cosmic forces envisaged as Gods and Goddesses. It is the Hindu belief that these powers are present in the land, from north to south and east to west. Temples big, medium and small also housed these powers.
The priests were responsible for carrying out the ritual worship of these powers. The Vedic rituals were carried out in the open, under the sky. With the building of temples in the post-Vedic age the temple priests continued the Vedic worship in various parts of the subcontinent, preserving the INTEGRITY of the rituals. Hence, the Kerala temple priests are in this tantric tradition. They are expected to follow certain well laid down rules and procedures for the rituals. They are initiated and trained by an authentic and qualified acharya who has deep knowledge of the scriptures and familiarity with tantric worship which consists both of mantras and mudras.
The Hindu belief is that the deity in the temple (already consecrated by deep ritual) is invoked during the ritual ceremonies.
It follows therefore, that the temple priest is expected to be a devout Hindu, with knowledge of scripture and tradition. With a non-Hindu government it is doubtful whether the choice of candidates for the temple priesthood has been conducted rigorously and with transparency. If not, then the ignoble motive is clearly to make a dent in the hitherto undefeated traditions of Hindu worship. Preserving the Vedic heritage means upholding Hindu polytheism and murti worship, as opposed to the dogmas of the monotheistic faith, with their ONE god and the attendant persecution of non-believers, and their history of violence and conquest.
» The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training is in Literature, Philosophy, Political Science, Political Economy & History.
Filed under: caste, culture, god, goddess, hindu, hindu dharma, hinduism, hindutva, india, indian politics, kerala, nehruism, religion, sanatana dharma, sanskrit literature, secularism, tantra, temples, veda Tagged: | brahmins, hindu names, hindu samaj, hindu temples, hinduism, kerala, LDF, non-brahmins, religious traditions, sanatana dharma, scripture and tradition, temple priests, travancore royal families, vedic heritage, vedic learning