Non-Brahmin priest – According to Bhagavad-Gita the caste of a person can only be determined by their skill (guna) and work (karma); irrespective of birth. But, with passage of time the thinking process of the people which boasted of values & principles, were replaced by arrogance, pride and false knowledge.
They started to determine the caste of a person by birth and lineage. Gradually this lead to a caste system which became the tool of exploitation by demeaning the skills & quality of a person based on his heredity.
In Gita it is said that a person who has knowledge and can teach people then he belongs to the brahmin class. Nothing else matters, neither birth, sex or color.
In India, only the brahmins by birth has the right to perform the rituals of God in the temples and be surrounded by the temple paraphernalia. This system is practicedfollowing the family ancestry.No non-brahmin has ever been given the scope to stand with them in the line. Caste discrimination in the temple priesthood is practiced vehemently since ages. Despite having knowledge and devotion a person from non-brahmin caste was never allowed to take up priesthood as profession. But time is changing, leaders and politicians are working hard in bringing equality in God’s own place. Now a non-brahmin with proper training of a priest can take up priesthood as profession and serve the almighty.Cladding in traditional temple clothes and being encircled by mandir stuffs has always been a dream for our non-brahmin brothers, it is changing into reality nowadays.
Lineage & heredity has overruled merit till now in the profession of a priest, but with perseverance and consistent effort Mr. Marichamy has secured a place in an Ayappan temple at Madurai. This man is the first non-brahmin priest in the history of priesthood in India. He reminisces, how he along with his familiy used to lounge at the temple corridors volunteering during festivals. Though he had the affinity for pujas, but never dreamed of becoming a priest, being a non-brahmin. In 2006 the HR&CE department, introduced archakatraining courses as a stepping stone for the caste-free priesthood system. Mr. Marichamy plunged into this and enrolled himself in the course to give wings to his hidden desire, of being a priest.
He learnt Shaivite scriptures, basics of Sanskrit language, learnt how to perform pujas, and understood special methodologies followed during festivals. Though the step was taken by the then government to eradicate the bias of caste, but it was not much welcomed by the orthodox brahmins and lineal priests. Marichamy had to struggle a lot to get his certificate and a job as a priest in major temples. For ten years he worked in small temples, until in 2017 cleared the interview for the post of a priest solely on his merits in an Ayappan temple at Madurai. With minimum salary, he is now a happy non-brahmin priest with lots of respect.
In our religious books it is mentioned that, the human beings belonged to a single class. Their profession can determine their skill, but it cannot define their identity. The commercialization of a profession in name of caste is a hindrance to the rich human resources distributed amongst the individuals. Appointment of the non-brahmin priest in the temples is truly a milestone in the social justice movement. No one should enjoy privilege or be exploited in the name of caste and religion. We should not forget that we are all human beings of blood and flesh only, so humanity can be the only class, which should define us.
God blesses us according to our karma and not according to the dharma we follow. God only knows devotion, love, honesty and compassion, nothing else cannot satisfy Him.