Chennai: Implementing its electoral promise of appointing aspirants belonging to all castes as temple priests, the DMK government on Saturday appointed as many as 24 trained ‘archakas’ of various communities as priests in shrines.
Chief Minister M K Stalin handed over the appointment orders of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to 75 persons here marking appointments to 208 positions under various categories.
The appointments include 24 aspirants who had formally completed training in a state-run centre for becoming priests in Hindu temples, 34 others who completed ‘archaka’ training in other ‘patashalas.’
The 208 appointees include “Bhattacharyas,” “Odhuvars” Poojaris and technical and office assistants who were recruited after due process, the government said.
While Bhattacharyas are Vaishanaite priests, Odhuvars are trained in Tamil Shaivite tradition to recite and sing devotional hymns composed by Shaivite saints including Appar and Manickavasagar in praise of Lord Shiva.
While August 14 marks the 100th day of DMK government assuming power in Tamil Nadu, the party had assured in the run up to the April 6 Assembly polls that it would appoint persons belonging to all castes, who have completed training as priests in temples. Stalin took over as Chief Minister on May 7.
Quoting reformist leader Thanthai Periyar E V Ramasamy the government in an official release here said he fought for equal rights in worship for all those who believe in God.
Following in his footsteps, the previous DMK government (2006-11) helmed by late Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had issued a Government Order paving the way for appointment of persons belonging to all Hindu castes as priests in temples, the government said.
Continuing the initiative, the government has appointed persons belonging to all castes who have completed training for the envisaged priestly role in temples.
The event to give away the appointment orders was held at a temple owned marriage hall here.
Pontiff Kundrakudi Ponnambala Adigalar, spiritual leader Shantalinga Marudhachala Adigalar, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister P K Sekar Babu, Health Minister Ma Subramanian, Municipal Administration Minister K N Nehru, top HR and CE and government officials participated.
While most temples have Brahmin priests, there are also many shrines where people belonging to several other castes officiate as archakas.
The AIADMK government had appointed a couple of non-Brahmin priests in temples who had completed training.
Hindu outfits and BJP leaders had already welcomed the initiative to appoint aspirants belonging to all Hindu communities as priests.