Priest carries Dalit man on shoulders into temple in Telangana
As attacks on Dalits increase across the country, the priest says he performed Munivahana Seva to send home the message of equality
HYDERABAD: Amid Vedic chants, 400-year-old Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple, located on the banks of Musi River in Jiyaguda here, witnessed a rare incident wherein a Hindu priest took a Dalit man by carrying on his shoulders into the temple's inner sanctum to proclaim that all are equal before God.
In the backdrop of growing attacks on Dalits across the country and allegations that Constitutional safeguards for SCs are being watered down by the successive governments, the high priest of Lord Balaji Temple in Chilkur, CS Rangarajan, on Monday performed this unique ceremony, named "Munivahana Seva" at the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple.
During the rite, the 60-year-old priest at first carried the Dalit devotee, named Aditya Parasri, who resides in the nearby locality, on his shoulders. Later, the priest circumambulated around the temple by holding the devotee on his shoulders, for three times. After, that, even as the temples' surroundings were echoing with the chants of Lord Vishnu, Rangarajan conveyed the man into the temple's inner place. Later, the chief priest helped the Dalit man have the darshan of presiding deity, besides making him offer prayers at the sanctum sanctorum.
During the ritual, the priest Rangarajan was accompanied by former MP S Venugopala Chary, temple trustees and officials of the endowments department.
After that, referring to a Hindu legend, the priest claimed that the ritual was first performed in Tamil land about 2,000 years ago.
According to the legend, a sage by name Loka Saaranga came to the river Kaveri for drawing water for the Sri Ranganatha Temple located at Sri Rangam. Then, after an incident, Saaranga carried an "outcaste" man, who had belonged to Paanar community, traditionally treated as untouchables as per the Tamil hagiographical literature, into the inner sanctum of the temple, on the command of Lord Vishnu. After which, the Paanar man was called Thiruppaan Alvar or Thirupaanazhwar and attained sainthood.
Rangarajan, who is heading the Telangana Temples Protection Movement seeking freedom for temples from government, said, "While performing religious rituals at Chilkur Balaji Temple everyday, I interact with the devotees in order to know their views on our Dharma. One Dalit devotee, who was observing Ayyappa Swamy Deeksha, wanted to know from me, if all are equal before god, why Dalits who observe Ayyappa Deeksha, are asked to prepare their food, separately. After that, some Dalit intellectuals pointed out about the recent attacks on SCs in the country. Then, I told them that Hindu Dharma treats all men equally. I informed them about the incident of Sage Loka Saaranga carrying an outcaste man on his shoulders into the Ranganatha Temple, 2,000 years ago. Then, the asked me to do the same now. Immediately, I accepted."