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.
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)
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