For the first time in the history of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), people belonging to ostracised communities in society will be appointed as priests.
Taking a rare detour from long-standing traditions and customs, TTD, which is the independent trust that oversees the operations and finances of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, has rolled out its first batch of non-Brahmin priests.
200 people were selected for the pilot project of recruiting members from Dalit and backward communities, and all of them have undertaken three-month-long rigorous training organised by the TTD management.
However, these priests won’t be appointed in the regular temples under TTD’s jurisdiction. They will instead undertake their sacerdotal duties in the soon-to-be constructed temples in areas where a majority of the population is Dalit or belongs to a backward community.
“The management is going to appoint SC, ST priests in temples governed by it very soon. The demand for reservation for Dalits for the priesthood has been persisting for several decades. Previous attempts to meet the demand have faced stiff resistance from certain quarters, but now we have made it a reality,” TTD executive officer Anil Singhal said during a press conference at Delhi, reports The Times of India.
The project had originally been initiated by TTD’s Sri Venkateswara Employees’ Training Academy (SVETA) in 2016 but had been discontinued later.
It has been reported that TTD will be working in collaboration with the State Endowments department for this project and construct about 500 temples.
The move is indeed encouraging because, for the longest time, the reins of temple administration and sacerdotal duties had been under the monopoly of the Brahmin community. It is also important to note that a temple trust has motioned this progressive move.
Earlier, Kerala had broken the age-old caste-centred system by implementing reservation for SC, ST and OBC communities for priest recruitment in the temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board. You can read more about it here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)