Untouchability row: Minister misunderstood ritual, no discrimination shown against anyone, says priests’ association

K. Radhakrishnan, who hails from a Scheduled Caste, had on Monday said two priests of a temple refused to hand over the small lamp they had brought to light the main lamp placed at the venue for marking an inauguration at the shrine. Instead, they themselves lit the main lamp, and after that placed the small lamp on the ground, thinking that he would take it.

September 20, 2023 05:44 pm | Updated 05:56 pm IST - Kannur

Minister K. Radhakrishnan

Minister K. Radhakrishnan

The alleged untouchability incident against Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan was a ‘misunderstanding’ of the rituals and no individual is discriminated against in temples, said an organisation of traditional high priests in the State on Wednesday.

The State committee of the Akhila Kerala Thanthri Samajam said priests who are performing ‘deva pujas’ do not touch anyone, be it Brahmin or non-Brahmin, till the same gets over. It wondered if there was any “ill intention” in stoking a controversy out of an issue that it claimed “technically ended eight months ago” and alleged that “an innocent act” was being used to create communal polarisation.

The samajam is an association of traditional high priests.

In the incident in question, the melsanthi (chief priest) -- who was performing a puja -- was asked in the last moment to come and light the lamp as the temple tantri (traditional high priest) was absent. After lighting the lamp, he went back to complete the puja and the same was misunderstood as untouchability by the Minister and he expressed his displeasure on the spot, the priests’ body said in a Facebook post.

At the same time, it questioned whether there was some “ill-intention” behind turning the incident -- which had “technically ended eight months ago” -- into a controversy now. The organisation said that in Kerala culture, cleanliness observed in temples was purely spiritual and claimed it was not caste-based discrimination.

It said a serious case has been lodged against the two priests, who were working in a temple under the Malabar Devaswom Board, merely on the basis of their caste. It further claimed that ignoring the reality, some people were insulting the temple’s melsanthi and his community based on the Minister’s statement.

“Such people are trying to misinterpret an innocent act and create communal tension in society. This can only be considered as a move for creating communal polarisation by claiming the presence of untouchability in Kerala,” it contended in the post.

The priests urged devotees not to get involved in such “malicious” controversies aimed at disrupting the communal harmony in society.

Mr. Radhakrishnan, who hails from a Scheduled Caste, had on Monday said two priests of a temple refused to hand over the small lamp they had brought to light the main lamp placed at the venue for marking the inauguration at the shrine. Instead, they themselves lit the main lamp, and after that placed the small lamp on the ground, thinking that he would take it.

Though the Minister did not reveal the name of the shrine, news channels aired the visuals of the recent inauguration of a “nadapandal” at a temple in Payyanur in Kannur district in which the Minister participated. It could be seen in the visuals that the priests were not handing over the small lamp to the Minister and placing it on the ground.

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