Tamil Nadu

Appointment of child priests is an age-old Badaga custom and halting it will cause unrest, HR&CE Department tells High Court

The report was filed in response to a public interest litigation petition filed by a local resident D. Sivan claiming that a minor boy aged five years was appointed as a priest of the temple in 2019, and he was not being allowed to step outside for any reason and prohibited from meeting any female.  

A Joint Commissioner of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department told the Madras High Court that the practice of appointing minor boys as priests is an age-old custom practised by the Badaga community at Shree Hethai Amman temple at Pedala Naduhatty village in the Nilgiris.

In a status report filed before the first Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu, the Joint Commissioner R. Senthil Velavan said any attempt to change the unique religious practice might create unrest and lead to law and order problem in 19 villages that worship the deity.

The report was filed in response to a public interest litigation petition filed by a local resident D. Sivan claiming that a minor boy aged five years was appointed as a priest of the temple in 2019, and he was not being allowed to step outside for any reason and prohibited from meeting any female.

His counsel Thangavadhana Balakrishnan told the court that the boy was not allowed to meet his mother; expected to wake up at 4:30 am every day to perform chores such as milking the buffaloes and lighting lamps, she complained.

However, Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram told the court that there were two other adult priests in the temple, and the child was the third. The boy’s father helped cook food for him, and the male teachers from a nearby panchayat school held classes for him inside the temple, the A-G said. It was also brought to the notice of the court that it had been aged-old practice of the Badagas to appoint a child priest, who would continue till adolescence. Thereafter, another child from Kittumanai family would get appointed as a priest. The incumbent child priest had been enrolled in school and male teachers go to the temple to teach him, he said.

When Ms. Balakrishnan pointed out that there was no clarity on how examinations would be conducted for the child, the judges asked the respondents to file another report detailing the kind of education being imparted to him.


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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 4:59:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/appointment-of-child-priests-is-an-age-old-badaga-custom-and-halting-it-will-cause-unrest-hrce-department-tells-high-court/article37761848.ece

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