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Dalit woman denied temple entry, incident goes viral on social media

Radha

Radha   | Photo Credit: S_S_KUMAR

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A group allegedly asked her to leave the premises and go and pray ‘in her community temple’

A Dalit woman was turned away from the Sri Kamatchi Sameta Boodanadheeswarar temple in a non-descript village about 25 km from here on Sunday.

When Radha, a woman in her thirties, from Kunichampet Dalit colony, tried to enter the temple, she was surrounded by a group of people who insisted that she leave and visit “the temple of her community”. The incident has gone viral on social media.

The villagers of Kunichampet consider the 20-day festival in the Sri Draupadiamman Alayam and Sri Kamatchi Sameta Boodanadheeswarar Temple as very auspicious. Every day through this period, stories from the Mahabharata resound across loudspeakers fixed to the lampposts along the route to the temple.

“Several people from the colony go to the temple during this festival but they stand outside and pray. Most do not dare to enter the temple. It has been the practice over the years,” says Ms. Radha.

She added: “This year, I wanted to see the marriage of goddess Draupadi conducted on the 15th day of the festival, which fell this Sunday. I entered the temple and waited for the ritual to begin when a person from the temple asked me to leave stating that I was from a lower caste. They asked me to go and pray in my temple and questioned why I was coming here when I have a temple in the colony. I said that I have come to pray and will leave only after praying to god. But the men in the temple shouted at me and asked a woman to take me outside. She tried to pull me outside. I could only give the camphor and money to the priest and leave."

Ms. Radha lives with her mother, a daily wage worker, in a thatched hut like several others in the colony. She used to enter the temple six years ago to pray. “I am going there after six years and they asked me to leave stating that I am from a lower caste,” she said.

A villager in the colony said that although the temple was under government control and Dalits had the right to perform rituals in one of the 18 days, but the temple board never gave them an opportunity. “It is only the Vanniyars, Reddiyars, Mudaliars and other caste Hindus who perform the rituals,” he added.

Charge denied

Arun Prakash, president, Sri Draupadiamman Alayam and Sri Kamatchi Sameta Boodanadheeswarar Temple Board, said: “For 18 days, at least 18 families from the village perform rituals and lead the prayers. Each family, according to its economic stature, conducts the rituals every day. They conduct abhishekam in the morning, take the goddess in a procession and organise plays or koothu. Usually, the family who is in charge of the rituals gets the privilege to pray first as per tradition, and the others follow. There must have been some misunderstanding on that particular day. There was no discrimination based on their caste.”

He, however, added that most of members of the Dalit colony do not enter the temple. “But when they enter the temple we never force them out. I was not present on that day and was not aware of what happened until the video went viral. All communities live peacefully here,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 9:03:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dalit-woman-denied-temple-entry-incident-goes-viral-on-social-media/article23740714.ece

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