R. B. SREEKUMAR, IPS (Retd.)
Former DGP, Gujarat. “Sreelekshmideepam”
Plot No. 193, Sector-8,
Tel. (R) 079-23247876
Letter No. 12-C/2014/CMO/T
Dated the 18th December, 2014.
Shri Oommen Chandy,
Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala,
Room No. 141, 3rd floor, North Block,
Sub :- Abolition of illegal and arbitrary
appointments of priests in government
administered temples and creation of
Kerala Temple Service (KTS).
Respected Chief Minister Sir,
Nearly 2000 temples in Kerala State are administered by semi-governmental bodies – Devaswam Boards, constituted under the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act-1950. The administrative bureaucracy of these bodies are appointed by the State government. Imperatively, all public, private institutions and bodies functioning for rendering multifarious service to the people have to fully adhere to the basic foundational ideals of the Constitution of India, enshrined in the Preamble and Part-III – Fundamental Rights.
2. Article 13 of the Constitution has declared that all laws, which includes any Ordinance, Order, by-law, rule, regulation, notification, custom and usage, in force in India, which are inconsistent with the provisions of the Fundamental Rights in Part-III be void. Recently, information about rules and regulations about appointment of the Chief and Junior Priests in the temples, under the administrative control of Travancore Devaswam Board, was obtained through RTI Act, 2005. The data received had indicated that posts of priests are exclusively reserved for persons belonging to Malayalee Brahmin caste. Moreover, the post of the Chief Priest of Shabarimala temple is exclusively reserved for a Brahmin family in Chengannoor. Further, no fool-proof, transparent and systematic selection procedure is reportedly followed for selection of Priests in temples. In short, there is a lot of confusion in selection, training, appointment, promotion and streamlining of service conditions of cadre of Priests performing poojas.
3. Many anachronistic practices, contrary to the provisions of the Indian Constitution, are reportedly continued in the management of Devaswam Board administered temples under the overview of State Devaswam Minister. Absolute reservation of appointment to the posts of Priests to persons from Malayalee Brahmin caste is grossly violative of Article 14 (equality before law), Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and Article-16 (equality of opportunities in matters of public employment). Even if the current practices are as per some regulation, these have to be deemed to be illegal because any rules, practices, customs or usage, which are disregarding the letter, spirit and ethos of the Fundamental Rights laid down in the Constitution, are illegal and invalid.
4. The metaphysical definition of a Brahmin is also not approving the present system of fixing a person’s caste according to his parent’s caste. The popular definition of Brahmin in scriptures is as follows :-
“Janmana Jayate Shudra,
Samskaro dwuja utbhavae,
Veda padhethi Bhavet vipraha,
Brahma gnanami Brahmanaha
(At the time of birth, everybody is Shudra – Shudra means, a person kept away from knowledge – Srutat Dooraha Shudra – the etimologist Yaskan; by acquiring education/culture, he becomes twice born; by mastering Veda (means any set of knowledge), one becomes vipra – a man of specialized knowledge – Vishesha pragna; and by acquiring knowledge of Brahma (brahmagnanam – spiritual awareness), one becomes a Brahmin). Moreover, Thunjath Ramanujan Ezhuthachchana, the father of Malayalam language, in his ‘Harinamakeerthanam’, sloka No. 20, stipulated that everybody irrespective of sex, socio-economic, cultural and educational status, is qualified and entitled for worshiping God.
5. In this context, I request you for initiating action to constitute a Kerala Temple Service (KTS), on the pattern of Kerala Secretariat Service or other self-contained government service cadres. A Committee of Experts can formulate rules and regulations for constitution of KTS. The present system of monopoly of one caste in temple worship service is obnoxiously obscurantist, besides being violative of basic structure of Indian Constitution. In temples, where entry of female devotees are allowed by convention, appointment in KTS should also be given to qualified women as priests, initially in temples of mother Goddesses. Vedas, the basic scripture of Hindus had never permitted killing a woman on the funeral pyre of their husbands but this abominably atrocious practice, intrinsically for economic reasons by male folk, for escaping from the responsibility of spending money for maintenance of widows, continued till the Governor General of East India Company, Lord William Bendick banned it in 1830s, at the instance of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Moreover, any action to end injustice in the field of priestocracy in Hindu temples will be in tune with directions in Rigveda (5/51/15) to stick to the path of justice. The vedic sukta says – “Oh men! just as the Sun and the Moon, move on the prescribed path with regularity, similarly men also should go on the path of justice.
6. Sir, you are well-known for your style of constant accessibility to people and keenness to swiftly solve problems and enhance quality and impact of service and justice delivery to people in Kerala. I hope that you will kindly appreciate my proposal and do the needful soon.
Please favour me with a reply about follow-up action on the proposal in this letter, at your convenience.
( R. B. Sreekumar)