200 young people belonging to Dalit and other backward communities will receive a certificate course in Vedic rituals through a three month training program which will be conducted by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the independent trust which manages the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, has taken a very unique decision by moving away from age old traditions, and by breaking barriers which distinguish one section of the society from the other.
The trust has decided to train non-Brahmins in the procedures of performing temple rituals and practices.
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Thus, about 200 people – Dalits and those belonging to other backward communities, will be trained for three months in how to perform the daily trample rituals. In the beginning, beneficiaries will be selected from Chittoor and West Godavari districts for the pilot project.
This will be a certificate course in Vedic rituals, which is being offered to Dalits and backward classes for the first time by the temple administration. Previously, TTD had also conducted some short training sessions for tribal priests in Vedic rituals. But this time, the trainings conducted will be full-fledged and a certificate will be awarded at the end of it.
AP endowments minister, P Manikyala Rao, told the Times of India that TTD will focus on people living in remote and backward areas and the endowments department will also build temples in faraway villages, in association with the TTD. This step is being taken so that after completing their training, young people can go back to their villages and take up the responsibility of daily rituals in those temples.
TTD officials informed that the traditional doctrine for temple rituals, called ‘Agamas’, has three parts. The highest form of these rituals is practiced by traditional priests, and the other two forms can be performed by the general public as well.
For the certificate program, 100 young people, each from West Godavari and Chittoor districts will receive training in ‘Smartha’ traditions which include all common rituals like fixing auspicious timings for weddings in families, etc. However, the trained youth will not be employed by TTD.
The intention of TTD is to make the profession of priesthood a lot more inclusive.