Tiruchirapalli

39-year-old Dalit woman keen to reclaim ‘Odhuvaar' post

S. Angaiyarkanni   | Photo Credit: M. SRINATH

With holy ash smeared on her forehead and a rudrakasha mala adorning her neck, S. Angaiyarkanni, 39, renders hymns from Thevaram in front of portraits of deities in her house. The flawless rendering reverberates along the narrow bylane that leads to her residence at Sembattu in Tiruchi and a spirit of bhakti pervades her house.

Ms. Angaiyarkanni, a Dalit, was the first woman appointed as Odhuvaar at Panchavarnaswamy Temple in Woraiyur in Tiruchi in 2006. Though she no longer holds the cherished position that she occupied for seven years, her devotion to God stands out.

She is now knocking at the doors of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Department to become an Odhuvaar again. “It was my desire right from younger days to become an Odhuvaar, a position usually held by men in temples,” says Ms.Angaiyarkanni, whose late father was a labourer.

Poverty and the challenging circumstances in which Ms. Angaiyarkanni grew up with five of her siblings in a thatched house at Sembattu did not come in the way of her desire.

She joined the Government Music School at Tiruchi in 2001 upon completing Plus Two. The three-year systematic training in Thevaram brought about a transformation in her personality. She also learnt Thirupugazh, Abhirami Andhadhi and Panniru Thirumurai at the music school.

Two years after completing the course, she got a break in mid-2006 when she joined the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department as a Odhuvaar at Panchavarnaswamy Temple in Woraiyur. “It was the first time that a woman was appointed as an Odhuvaar. I was elated,”she recalls with pride.

Ms. Angaiyarkanni became a familiar face with devotees visiting the shrine as she rendered the holy hymns in front of the deity during the four kaalas every day. Her marriage in 2010 with Senthilnathan, a driver by profession of Namakkal, did not cut short her work. “I did not want to leave the opportunity that came my way and continued to do the job with devotion,” she says.

She continued her duty even after delivering a daughter in 2011 and shifted to Woraiyur along with her parents to continue in the job at the temple till 2013. But “family circumstances and inadequate income” forced her to quit the post and head for Namakkal where her husband worked. “But the desire to serve god by rendering hymns at the temple lingers,” she says.

She approached the temple authorities at Woraiyur in 2016 with a plea to absorb her again in the same post. But as an Odhuvaar had already been posted, she readily undertook other odd jobs at the shrine due to family circumstances. In early 2020, she left for Namakkal where she got stuck due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

After over a year, she has returned to Tiruchi along with her 10-year-old daughter and now lives with her younger brother. She has also approached Panchavarnaswamy Temple authorities, but has apparently been told to meet higher officials of the HR & CE Department.

“I will be extremely delighted if the authorities absorb me as Odhuvaar again as it would give me a chance to serve god and also help me in my life,” she says.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 8:45:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/39-year-old-dalit-woman-keen-to-reclaim-odhuvaar-post/article35961515.ece

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