Caste annihilation: Dalits, others can now become ‘diploma’ holder Purohits!

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Madhya Pradesh government is set to begin a one-year diploma course on Hindu Purohit rites and practices. The course is called Purohityam and it begins this July.

PR Tiwari, the director of Maharishi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan, has been quoted by NewsX.com where he explains that the candidates will learn about basics of the priesthood, rituals, mantras, sanskaar literature (grihya sutras), theory of sanskaar and sixteen Hindu sanskaars.

But to join this course one has to be at least a Class 12th pass. Any Hindu belonging to any caste is eligible to join the course but the minimum qualification of 12th pass has to be obtained.

The course has become a curious case as earlier some Brahmin groups had objected to this, say many reports, but, by and large, the move of the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh has gone down well with the masses.

Hindu Dalits sit during a mass conversion to Buddhism ceremony in Mumbai, 27 May 2007. Picture courtesy: GettyImages
Hindu Dalits sit during a mass conversion to Buddhism ceremony in Mumbai, 27 May 2007. Picture courtesy: GettyImages

However, employability would remain a challenge for the new Purohits and placement aspect is still unclear under the program.

The program will likely enjoy the backing of several Hindu groups who wish a full decimation of casteism:

Let’s take you back to the Rudayan Dalit atrocity case, when on March 11, 1990, a Dalit man named Data Ram was burnt alive. The houses of the 42 Dalit families living nearby were reduced to ashes and the tensions never died down. You may ask, what was the crime of Data Ram to meet such gruesome fate? He had applied color on the face of an upper caste man during Holi. That was the fault for which he, his family and the Dalit neighbors paid such an enormous price. There are many cases like these which have become a focal point for Dalit human rights and their zest to break down the caste structures. The move by the MP government to open the doors for the post of Purohit can be seen in this light and the agenda of RSS is certainly at play.

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Will the Dalits finally get the respect due to them? Time will tell. Pic courtesy: Dalit Nation

RSS was vociferously condemning the move of not allowing Dalit Hindus in a prominent Hindu Temple in the year 2006. Jagannath Temple in Kerdagarh, Orissa saw tensions when after the entry of Dalits, the Upper Castes refused to do puja with them.

Panchjanya, an RSS mouthpiece, ripped apart the casteist attitude of ‘some’ Hindus saying that it was “shameful that even in 2006 there are temples where Dalits are disallowed … Even God will desert the temple that Dalits cannot enter. Those who are against allowing Dalits inside temples are against the Hindu Samaj.There should be no Hindu temple which discriminates against people on the basis of caste. Those Dalits who are being provoked to change their views through such incidents have to be assured that crores of Hindus are with them.”

The castigating remarks came after it had earlier vowed that it would train and get the Dalits appointed on the designation of Purohit in Temples across India.

The open condemnation energized many Hindu groups who also saw this as the right time to make their move against casteism and get Dalits inside the Hindu Temples, but this time not merely as the believer but as the Priest. But to be honest, this open assertion was met with suspicion and seemed a too difficult task then, and BJP (Brahmin-Bania party that’s how it was seen then) being out of power hardly had the means to pull the feat. But times changed and Shivraj stormed to power in 2005. The new Chief Minister enjoyed the people’s trust as the ‘bhai, beta and mama‘ and with the RSS’ backing, it was just about time, that this move was made. Similar such projects may also begin in other states soon.

Dalits, India, caste structure, casteism, Narendra Modi, BJP, RSS, Agniveer, Dalit Yagna, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh, Purohit diploma, Dalit Hindus, Shrivedant Foundation, Namta Gupta
Badami Bai, a Dalit sarpanch of village Kurawas kalan of Morena district ties rakhi to MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan on August 10, 2014 in Bhopal, India. But a lot still needs to be done. Pic: GettyImages

But at that time, after the fiasco in the Temple in Orissa and following the RSS’ condemnation, many social upheavals started taking place. The biggest break came in 2014 when two Dalit widows created history after getting appointed as the priest in the Kudroli Gokarnanatheshwara Temple, Mangalore. That they were women from Dalit community and widows opened the doors of pulling such moves in the future.

World’s richest Temple Tirumala also began to train non-Brahmins in Temple rites and practices which earned it massive applause. 200 people from Dalit and other backward Hindu communities were this program’s immediate beneficiaries.

While this is going on, another young Hindu group has started a mass movement of a similar type. Agniveer is doing Dalit Yajna led by young RTI activist Sumit Kumar and scientists Vashi Sharma and Sanjeev Newar.

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Dalits came out in big numbers to participate in the Dalit Yagna conducted by Agniveer. But it is the women who show maximum enthusiasm. Picture credit: Agniveer

The group aims to break the age-old caste barriers by inviting Dalits to participate in Yagna, the right which was earlier denied to them by the upper caste hegemony. Even women are invited to participate in the yagna. In short, a great social movement is in motion and Hindu society is seeing a major churning. While this may seem a little too little and too late to some, yet considering that those who left the fold of Hinduism also face prejudices, like the Dalit Catholics in this case, it is imperative that the move gets a push from the society.

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Dalits among the Christians fight for equal rights. Picture courtesy: Asia News

RSS is already pushing for it and BJP, with people like Tarun Vijay and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, is also pushing for it in its own ways and of course, there are other Hindu groups which are doing their bit too. But it is still a long way ahead and may take years to finally bury the casteism.

More similar courses:

Madurai Kamraj University, for now, offers Saiva Siddhantha course in Tamil. Shrivedant Foundation has also begun courses which the Deccan College Deemed University, Pune, India has validated.

The Foundation has introduced Courses on Hindu Culture and Lifestyle in three levels – Basic, Intermediate and Advance catering to children as well as adults. This course can be taken online from anywhere by anyone in the world as it is delivered through the website http://www.hinduculturestudies.com.

Will casteism finally die out among the Hindus?

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Once the student register online, they will gain access to the course material and get on with their studies. After completing the course, students should submit the assignments through email which will be checked by experts in the Foundation’s panel and upon completion, a Certificate from Shrivedant Foundation will be awarded to them.

By Namta Gupta

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