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Tirupati temple trust is training SC/ST priests, but won’t let them serve in its own temples

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Dalit rights activists say that the programme serves no purpose if the trained priests can’t perform rituals in the temples associated with one of the richest temple trusts in the world.

New Delhi: In December 2017, one of the world’s richest temples, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), made headlines after it said that for the first time in its history it would be training individuals from Scheduled Castes and Tribes to be priests.

However, the trust now says that none of the individuals in the programme will serve in any of the temples it administers, a move that Dalit rights advocates say renders it meaningless.

“TTD temples are governed by the science of rituals called agama sastras and each temple has got its own agama and its own hereditary priest system which we still follow,” Dr. A.V. Ramana Dikshitulu, the head priest at TTD, told ThePrint.

Dikshitulu was part of the committee that prepared the syllabus to train the priests.

“There were no Dalit priests in TTD temples. They are already working in their temples; we just polished them and gave them the techniques,” he said.

Asked about the training systems in place, Dikshitulu said, “TTD is training the local people to worship in their own local temples in fishing and Dalit villages. We are guiding them to maintain hygiene and sanctity in their temples by teaching how a priest should behave inside a temple.”

The genesis of the programme

Ravi T, the public relations officer of TTD, said the programme was the result of leaders from villages approaching the trust saying there were people interested in learning the Vedas and mantras to conduct pujas in their temples.

The TTD agreed to provide the training and a programme was added at the Sri Venkateswara Employees’ Training Academy in Tirupathi. The spokesperson said that the trust’s role was always just to provide training.

“After training they go back to their villages and they will be chosen by their community to be identified as pujaris. TTD’s part is only to provide training, not employment or anything beyond training,” he said.

Officials from TTD said those who come from the programme are placed in temples built with financial assistance from the trust. Officials from TTD say they have trained 330 people so far and have constructed 500 temples for members of lower castes and tribals.


“If it was intended to be a positive step, these Dalit people should have been made priests in existing temples” said Dr. V.S. Nirmal, Dalit rights activist and National Secretary of Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union.

“You are propagating the old tradition when you decide to encourage Dalits to become priests. A sadhu does not contribute to the economy and when a Dalit is made a priest, he also stops contributing to the society. The segregation of temples for different communities will continue to prolong the caste systems,” he said.

Chandra Ban Prasad, a Dalit ideologue said that this move to appoint Dalit priests is ‘meaningless.’

“Generally the priests in these temples are from OBC background and not Dalits. Dalits are not allowed to enter temples in many parts of the country even now,” he said.

“What will a Dalit go and do in a temple when all the Hindu scriptures are against him. Will he go and teach that?” he said.

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  1. Change is always welcome. Firstly, the self-proclaimed Dalits should shed their deemed qualification as backward and Dalits. And, if you want to do a Brahmin job please don’t criticize and insult the jobs of Brahmins. Double standards are hypocritical. Most of these vocals are NOT in anyway interested in doing a pujari job. But, they just want to replace Brahmins from their positions. This is just like “is it your prerogative to be a priest in a temple? I’ll do your job and throw you out’ syndrome. Caste system I’d not insulting or any such derogatory in nature. It just segregates different activities of society to different people. Being a Dalit or doing any such job Dalits do is not in anyway inferior or insulting in nature. And for that matter, Brahmins are nowhere superior or priests are only favoured by god. It is one’s dharma that gets valueed and respected in earthly and eternal world. Comparing with others is a bad phobia and sickness. Defaming and pulling down others cannot make anyone equal or superior.

  2. if you Dalit organization is so much unhappy for being a few trained Priests, then do one thing

    Also do one thing to Brahmans.
    Give us minimum 5 acres of agri land with water resource. Traine us in Agricultural techniques.
    .. so that our Purohits will get a better living , they will get brides for a early marriage ..

    The more you keep doing for minorities , sc , st..bla bla bla.endless…without thinking or doing anything to Brahman community –
    discrimination erupts in one or the other way.

    • Well said body wants to follow Vedas and everybody wants to go against the scriptures and rules ……this is wht happens one day if we go against nature ….Corona is one example …for everyone going against nature ands living a life of one’s own will and ego….

  3. If Dalit Activitists are asking to occupy Brahmin’s Priest Place… Shall any Brahmin get Quota in SC/ST Jobs?

    • Mr. Ramesh to get ST/SC reservation someone first accept that they are Tribal or Dalit then government needs to recognize their status as Tribal or Dalit. Do you think Brahman would like to identify themselves as Tribal or Dalit. But reality is some Brahmin caste or sub caste are included at OBC list in some Indian states. Brahmins who are in OBC lists:-
      Daivadnya Brahmins or sonars in the state of Karnataka
      Dakaut or Joshi Brahmins in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Delhi
      Kattaha Brahmin in Rajasthan.
      Sthanika Brahmins in the state of Karnataka
      Vishwakarma (endonym Viswabrahmin) – A community comprising five occupational subgroups claiming common descent from the deity Vishvakarman

      Sathatha Sri Vaishnavas A distinctive Brahmin community of Hindus in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana
      Maharastra Brahmins in state of Kerala
      Goswami Brahmins in the states of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh
      Rudraja Brahmins in the states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura
      Manipuri Brahmins in the state of Assam.

      • Daivadjnya brahmins,have a different history all together..they are nothing to do with Vishwakarma.Its a wrong place of information. I will be glad to discuss it in details if required. thank u and regards

  4. Hard weired antisecularism cant accept dalit and down trodden talents and even tried to curtail their exceptional skills as was the case with Ekalavya. Did any diety instructed or has set guidelines like there should be legacy in performing rituals and poojas in sanctum sanctorum. All are fabrigated guidelines in favour of priests. If questioned, it will be blasphemy or sacrilege. Only reason why India was easily invaded by foreign rulers is our social strata which has divided us and weakened our links and bonds among strata. Any weak links in chain is the point of breakage.
    There we were broken and ruled by one foreign regime after another still we havent learn to strengthen our bond as Indians. Claims like “unity in diversity” “secularism” and lagest democratic country remains mirage even for the centuries to follow such is the social rift among people created by selfish disciplinarians. Incursion of hatred among social sect is the driving force for this disparity based operational forces.
    In a democratic country if electoral based govt is reigning putting off the practice of legacy for ruling people, why this legacy business in action in the one of the richest holy shrine in the world ???

  5. The “Dalit” hashtag is still present only because of Media, which identifies people by their caste. Even if Dalit concept is eliminated, still if these media people start identifying”Dalits” like this, it’s not gonna be good for Dalits!!

    Their Identity as a Dalit only gets Stamped!!

    Even if the society forget about Dalits, still the word Dalit reminds society of their caste and status, thus provoking Caste Isuues.

    Does Adhaar or PDS card or Voter ID say which caste the person belongs to??
    Then how will a person know whether he is a dalit?? Because the media highlights it!

    And btw TTD isn’t Government run and hence it doesn’t have any obligation to give any quota to people begging in the name of caste!!

    Be Happy that they’re at least trained in TTD unlike the older stone age times, where they weren’t even allowed inside temples..
    This itself is a Prima Facie evidence of Dalit Empowerment!

    If Presstitutes in India wanna play Caste card, they should better start off by having Dalits in their own places.
    I hope Editor’s Guild run by your man Shekar Gupta!!
    Is there a Dalit in Your man’s Guild??
    So its a clear Discriminatory practice by Editor’Guild(Anti-Dalit Journalism)!!!

    Articles like this should make Editor’s Guild an “Editor’s Guilt”
    I even read an article by a Pakistani!! Antinational Media!!

    RIP Fair Journalism

  6. TTD or some other organization’s, giving training to those to serve God is very good. But, why cannot those trained people get appointed as priests? As per my knowledge (even I may be wrong), few ALVAARS whom we worship too belonging to those categories. If so, giving those to serve as priests has no SIN, instead, it is a good SIGN. “Brahmamokkate”

  7. While reading agama sastras and rituals in Hindu temples we practise the same Pooja Vidhi day to day .
    Government first uplift the common people by giving their uplift and education free .

    People are thinking all priests are rich and famous ,that is not true so many priest families are still living hand to mouth other than no source of revenues and big families attached .

    So how to improve their status of all financially down trodden people irrespective of any religion creed caste sect sub sect etc,.
    Basic fundamentals for removing property
    1. Neat roads and electricity water and sanitation
    2.quality education to all

    3.construct hospital and medical clinics
    4.public convention halls and burial grounds for all religions.
    5.greivance cell for common issues and remedies.
    6.charitable society participation for providing free health and needy .
    Our life is short do noble things for all
    Vision 2050 prioritise each village and grass root level,
    If there is no will there is no way
    Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu

  8. Om namo bhagavathe vasudevaya.I appreciate the move by TTD to train some people of less opportunities, i wish to address them as so instead of calling them “DALIT”,in paurohithya to maintain and run their temples.I do understand that changes with respect to belief systems in our traditions whenever takes place will be resisted by some .After all the mind resists any thing which it does not like.But any action initiated with an intention to bring about positive changes with respect to society at large should be supported .Ofcourse there will be arguments and resistances to such changes .Such arguments and resistances have been there in the past and will be there in the future the best way to handle them is to ignore them and not react to them .Instead be focused on our actions and be strong and patient.I wish all the best to TTD in their endeavors.

  9. Author her self is Christian, she should not comment about Hinduism and about our system, due to this ttd programme they are facing problem on converting Hindus to Christian, now started new propaganda. Be careful Hindus. Don’t get in to this.

  10. Christians should mind their own business and not poke their noses in other faiths..
    Stealth converted ‘dalit rights’ guys have been exposed long back..
    Hindus can and will manage their affairs..

  11. Dear All Hindu Bandhavas,

    Please accept the fact that Hindu society needs reforms. A girl child is still considered a financial burden to a family. Please think. Are women burden to society?

    Woman either in parental home or in-laws home do not get due respect!

    A person has rights to choose his/her profession. Why is caste interfering?

    The so called Swamis/Babas etc exploit people in the name of religion. They also influence our electoral politics.
    To keep them in control, govt must include religious related subjects in school. So that people need not go for spiritual quests.

    Please make it clear Hinduism needs reforms.

  12. Some people have an eternal itch to make a huge issue out of every single thing. They tend to see every single act with a prejudiced view. The program was introduced to train people from interiors to maintain sanctity of Temples in their own regions and not to make a living out of it. Unlike many other ‘so-called’ Dalit friendly religions, Hinduism isn’t here to generate money for the priest class. The pastors and mullas normally make a huge fortune out of the profession unlike priests in Hindu temples. May be the author and the other people who expressed their views in the article were expecting something similar to what their own pastors earn. Unfortunately, Sanatanadharma doesn’t revolve around money, economy and earning as a metric of progress. If the community who underwent training feels it’s really unworthy to be trained by TTD in archaka / agama sastras, I think it’s their prerogative and they have a right to quit such training. These are not job guarantee schemes. I don’t see any of those who underwent the training complain about the program. Its only those who wish to convert and take advantage of these communities that create a ruckus out of every thing. If they really feel priests are so unproductive to society, why are they crying about the fact that none of these trainees are made priests in TTD temples? Please don’t spread your venom on a peaceful and inclusive society. Enough venom and hatred has been spread about Hindu society since the British era and they have suffered more than enough because of such false propaganda.

  13. Let us try to be a part of the solution to the social problem. That the training institutions don’t give employment in itself is not discriminatory nor arbitrary. Not all upper caste trained poojaries get placements in temples de facto . If one is inclined to become a priest and choose this vocation, Just like a school teacher you can train others, start your school , conduct rituals in private homes educate the public about the purpose , intent of the rituals in simple language . So we understand and respect our ancient religious thought which is unique in the world. We can begin by dropping the tag Dalit . He or she becomes automatically the guru or acharya for everyone.

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