Bridging caste divide: First Dalit Priest performs Puja at Kerala Temple

Yedu Krishna is one of the six Dalit priests to have been recruited by Kerala's Temple board

It was a dream come true for Yedu Krishnan who became the first Dalit priest in Kerala to assume duties at the sanctum sanctorum of the Manappuram Lord Shiva Temple at nearby Thiruvalla.

Krishna, who hails from the SC Pulaya community, is one of the six Dalit priests to have been recruited by Travancore Devaswom (Temple) Recruitment Board for temples under Travancore Devaswom Board. The young priest took blessings of his guru K K Aniruddhan Thantri and entered the shrine with present chief priest Gopakumar Namboodiri, chanting mantras, temple officials said.

Speaking with The Indian Express, Krishna said, “I never felt any discrimination over caste. For the past five years, I was working as a priest at Devi Temple at Valiyakulangara in Ernakulam district. Today, when I left, many non-Dalit visitors to the temple turned emotional.”

In a landmark step, the Travancore Devaswom Board shortlisted a total of 62 people for appointment in various temples, of which 36 are either Dalits or from other backward castes. The board manages at least 1,248 shrines in the state, including the famous Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. This is the first time in Kerala that temple priests have been appointed as per the reservation norms followed for recruitment of government staff.

A native of Chalakkudy in Thrissur, Krishna is the youngest son of Ravi and Leela, who are daily wage earners. Krishnan is a final year postgraduate student in Sanskrit. He had begun performing pooja at the age of 15 at a local temple near his house. He had undergone 10 years training in Tantra Shastra.

Krishan’s presence inside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine comes at a time when Kerala is set to observe the 81st anniversary of the historic Temple Entry proclamation on November 12.

The proclamation was a royal decree, which opened the temples in the erstwhile state of Travancore to the so-called lower caste Hindus in 1936.

(PTI inputs)