According to an ancient legend, Loka Saaranga, a sage, had broken the archaic casteist system by carrying an ‘outcaste’ man on his shoulders to the inner sanctum of the Sri Ranganatha Temple of Sri Rangam.
Believed to be working on the direction of Lord Vishnu, his act had led to the sainthood of the man who belonged to the Paanar community, whose members were treated as untouchables as per the Tamil hagiographical literature.
2,000 years later, the Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple of Jiyagud in Hyderabad witnessed the same ritual being performed by a Hindu priest, who carried a Dalit devotee on his shoulders into the temple’s inner sanctum to proclaim something important—that all are equal before God.
60-year-old CS Rangarajan, who is the head priest of the Lord Balaji Temple in Chilkur, partook in the inimitable ritual known as ‘Munivahana Seva’ at the 400-year-old temple on Monday, in the light of growing animosity against minority and downtrodden groups in the country.
Amid Vedic chants, 400-year-old Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple, located on the banks of Musi River in Jiyaguda here, witnessed a rare incident wherein a Hindu priest took a Dalit man by carrying on his shoulders into the temple's inner sanctum to proclaim that all are equal before God.In the backdrop of growing attacks on Dalits across the country and allegations that Constitutional safeguards for SCs are being watered down by the successive governments, the high priest of Lord Balaji Temple in Chilkur, CS Rangarajan, on Monday performed this unique ceremony, named "Munivahana Seva" at the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple.During the rite, the 60-year-old priest at first carried the Dalit devotee, named Aditya Parasri, who resides in the nearby locality, on his shoulders. Later, the priest circumambulated around the temple by holding the devotee on his shoulders, for three times. After, that, even as the temples' surroundings were echoing with the chants of Lord Vishnu, Rangarajan conveyed the man into the temple's inner place. Later, the chief priest helped the Dalit man have the darshan of presiding deity, besides making him offer prayers at the sanctum sanctorum.During the ritual, the priest Rangarajan was accompanied by former MP S Venugopala Chary, temple trustees and officials of the endowments department.After that, referring to a Hindu legend, the priest claimed that the ritual was first performed in Tamil land about 2,000 years ago.According to the legend, a sage by name Loka Saaranga came to the river Kaveri for drawing water for the Sri Ranganatha Temple located at Sri Rangam. Then, after an incident, Saaranga carried an "outcaste" man, who had belonged to Paanar community, traditionally treated as untouchables as per the Tamil hagiographical literature, into the inner sanctum of the temple, on the command of Lord Vishnu. After which, the Paanar man was called Thiruppaan Alvar or Thirupaanazhwar and attained sainthood.Rangarajan, who is heading the Telangana Temples Protection Movement seeking freedom for temples from government, said, "While performing religious rituals at Chilkur Balaji Temple everyday, I interact with the devotees in order to know their views on our Dharma. One Dalit devotee, who was observing Ayyappa Swamy Deeksha, wanted to know from me, if all are equal before god, why Dalits who observe Ayyappa Deeksha, are asked to prepare their food, separately. After that, some Dalit intellectuals pointed out about the recent attacks on SCs in the country. Then, I told them that Hindu Dharma treats all men equally. I informed them about the incident of Sage Loka Saaranga carrying an outcaste man on his shoulders into the Ranganatha Temple, 2,000 years ago. Then, the asked me to do the same now. Immediately, I accepted."(text courtsey The New Indian Express)Partner Story#MGChangemakers - Episode 2: THE 21-YEAR JOURNEY OF CHANGE | Driving India Into Future
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Aditya Parasri, who lives in the vicinity, was the devotee who was part of the rare ritual.
With Aditya on his shoulders, Rangarajan circumambulated the temple three times. Following this, he entered the sanctum sanctorum of the temple as the walls of the ancient structure echoed with Vedic chants and hymns. He solemnised the ritual with the devotee completing the ‘darshan’ of the presiding deity. The duo was accompanied by S Venugopala Chary, a former MP, temple trustees and officials of the endowments department, in this momentary deed.
Rangarajan heads the Telangana Temples Protection Movement, which has been instrumental in the movement seeking freedom for temples from the government.
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To understand the perspective of Dharma amongst devotees, he used to interact with them on a daily basis, while performing sacerdotal activities at the Chilkur Balaji temple. A conversation with some Dalit devotees on the same aspect, paved the way to the act.
“One Dalit devotee, who was observing the Ayyappa Swamy Deeksha ritual, wanted to know from me if all are equal before God, why are Dalits asked to prepare their food during this period, separately. After that, some Dalit intellectuals pointed out the recent attacks on SCs in the country. Then, I told them that Hindu Dharma treats all men equally, and informed them about the incident of Loka Saaranga, a sage, who carried an outcaste man on his shoulders into the Ranganatha Temple, 2,000 years ago. Then, they asked me to do the same now. I accepted the proposal immediately,” the priest told The New Indian Express.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)