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Dalit priests preside at temples

Dalit priests preside at temples

Author: Chetan Adhikari
Publication: Jagaran Media Center
Date: May 6, 2007
URL: http://www.jagaranmedia.org.np/jagaran-media-nepal-dalit-news.php?id=31

Contrary to traditional taboo on Dalits' access to Hindu temples, two dalits have been working as Hindu priests here for the last 15 years.

Bindeshwori Hrishidev and Chedi Lal Hrishidev, dalits from a Madhesi community, have been offering 'tika', prayers and blessings to scores of devotees visiting Shiva Mandir and Kali Mandir in Satashidham VDC-8, Jhapa on the banks of the Kankai River.

Although dalits, both priests recite Holy Gita and Ramayana at the break of dawn everyday. "Devotees start crowding the temple for prayers and receiving tika from early morning everyday," Chedi Lal said.

"I never hid my family background from the devotees coming here," Bindeshwori said adding, "Caste cannot stop anyone from becoming a priest if our souls are pure."

However, both the priests share a strange indifference towards the agitation carried out by Dalits demanding their unconditional entry into temples. "I do not think that entering temple carries much significance in liberating dalits. Non-dalits oppress dalit people because of the importance the latter give to entering temples," Bindeshwori said.

Once a bull-dozer driver by profession, Bindeshwori became a priest after facing discrimination. He encouraged the local people to built a temple in the area, led the construction himself, and later took up the job of the priest at the temple.

Now respected for their professions, both Bindeshwori and Hrishidev said that non-dalits alone cannot impose caste discrimination if dalits are more committed in their respective fields.

Dilli Ram Baskota, a local living near Shiva Mandir said, "Previously, even we hesitated to visit the temple. However, that's a past story now." Baskota said that the Hrishidev duo's courage to become priests is a landmark for ending religious and caste discrimination.

Source: Kantipur Online

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