Pariahs turn priests in temples
8 Jul 2007, 0323 hrs IST,ARUN KUMAR,TNN
PATNA: Bihar, which earned notoriety in the past because of the
oppression of the Dalits by the privileged castes, has been witnessing
a silent social revolution these days. Now, the "pariahs" are
performing "puja" as priests in some famous temples of the state.
Kishore Kunal, who became Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts
(BSBRT) administrator in May, 2006, said Chandeshwar Paswan was the
first Dalit priest appointed by him at Vishwanath Mahadev Mandir,
Hajipur. His appointment as priest was done on the day of Shivaratri,
when a large number of devotees throng this temple to offer their puja
to lord Shiva.
On January 14, the Makar Sankranti day this year, another Dalit,
Jamuna Das, was appointed as a priest in famous Shiva temple at Bihta,
On June 30 this year, on the occasion of Sant Kabir Jayanti, yet
another Dalit from the Mushahar community, Janardan Manjhi, was
appointed as a priest at the Ram Janki temple at Paliganj in Patna
Kunal said he searched for Dalit Sanskrit scholars for their
appointment as priests. He felt these appointments would go a long way
in eliminating caste discrimination and bring social harmony in the
caste-ridden society of Bihar. He said at Begusarai and Bodh Gaya
temples, too, Dalit priests would be appointed soon.
He said this social revolution in not something unprecedented. The
state had witnessed in the past some kind of social revolt against
Brahminism under the banner of Buddhism. Even during the early days of
the post-independence era, Bihar's first CM Srikrishna Singh had
himself led the untouchable Dalits' entry into Shiva temple at
Baidyanath Dham (now in Jharkhand).
The movement, however, slowed down in the last decades of 20th
century. It was revived again by Kunal, who in his capacity as
secretary of the famous Hanuman Temple of Patna, appointed Phalhari
Suryvashi Das, a Dalit scholar, as a priest of the temple on June 13,
1993. According to Kunal, Das was brought here by him from Ravidas
Temple at Ayodhya. Since then, Das has been performing the religious
rituals in the Hanuman Temple. Sanjay Rajak, another Dalit, has been
engaged in distribution of "charnamrit" (holy nectar) at the temple.