Dalit widows break a barrier

TH30_KUDROLIPTI9_2_2132356fLakshmi and Chandravati, widows from an SC community, perform ‘aarti’ at the Sri Gokarnanatha Kshetra in Kudroli, Mangalore, on Monday.

Lakshmi and Chandravati become priests in 102-year-old Kudroli temple

A year after the appointment of widows as priests, Shree Gokarnanatheshwara Kshethra in Kudroli has created history by inducting two widows from a Scheduled Caste community as priests in the 102-year-old temple.

After their induction, Lakshmi (65) from Chilimbi and Chandravati (46) from Ranipura near Ullal — both cashew factory workers — performed extensive rituals under the glare of numerous cameras and devotees at each of the idols at the temple on Monday.

The two have already undergone three days’ training, and are expected to participate in the ongoing Dasara rituals.

The two women — clad in traditional yellow saris — said they were taken by surprise when they were allowed into the sanctum sanctorum to perform a ritual for the main deity. “We thought we will only do pujas for the idols outside. We never expected this,” said Ms. Lakshmi.

Fearing opposition, they had not even told their closest relatives of their appointment, she added.

Though many devotees hailed the move as progressive, some staunch devotees expressed their opposition.

In response, the former Union Minister, B. Janardhana Poojary, who is a patron of the temple, said the induction was in line with the philosophy of temple-founder Narayana Guru, who espoused a caste-free society. “Until recently, Billavas were considered untouchables and were not allowed to become priests. People seem to have forgotten that,” he said.

He said the induction would set a trend in breaking down barriers between Dalits, women and faith. “There are laws protecting Dalits and women, but their discrimination still continues. When Dalits can become judges, the President, a Chief Minister, why can’t they become priests?” he told presspersons

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