CHENNAI: Over 15 years after the DMK regime in 2006 issued an order allowing people from all communities to become priests in temples, Chief Minister MK Stalin on Saturday here handed over appointment letters to 24 non-Brahmin priests and a woman as an ‘odhuvar’.
Of the 24, five belong to scheduled communities. This is the first time men from scheduled communities were appointed as priests in temples under the State’s management. Also, it is the second time a woman has been appointed an ‘odhuvar’ in a Hindu temple.
V Renganathan, president of Tamil Nadu Trained Archakas Students Sangam, said, “207 people were trained for one-and-half years in government training centres since 2007. But we could not get appointments due to a legal battle, and five of the trained priests died waiting. In 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the government order. Since then, only two of us got appointed in the AIADMK rule - one in 2018 and one in 2020.”
The order, issued by the then Karunanidhi government in 2006, was a culmination of one of the longest campaigns of the Dravidian movement. An earlier law amendment passed by the DMK government in 1970 could not be implemented due to an unfavourable Supreme Court verdict in 1972. The 2006 government order also faced a legal challenge when Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Nala Sangam filed a petition against it, and in 2015, the SC upheld the order.
The government said Dravidian idealogue Periyar struggled for equal rights to worship for all believers, and wanted people from all castes to become priests. The Karunanidhi government passed the order to “remove the thorn in Periyar’s heart” and the present government will follow Karunanidhi’s footsteps, it said.