Tamil Nadu

‘Temple worship focusses on Agamas, not idols’

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, while insisting that restrictions in the “Agama sastras” did not violate the right to equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, made it clear that appointment of priests should conform to the Agama practices prevalent in a particular temple, even if it meant that archakas (priests) were appointed from a given “denomination, sect or a group” in the State.

The Tamil Nadu government had, in 2002, announced that temple priests would be appointed from people belonging to all castes, and had even launched Agama training schools in several temples, to impart the required training and qualifications to become archakas in Hindu temples.

The bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi has clearly said that the appointment of archakas in temples should follow the Ágama sastras followed in individual temples.

Agamas in Sanskrit mean “that which has come to us.” There are two kinds of Agama texts, Agama and Tantra, the former practised in Saivite and Vaishnavite temples, and the latter in Sakthi temples.

Agamas expound a variety of subjects and they are really the stylebook, on which Hindu rituals are based.

While some Saivite temples practise Tamil Agamas too, rituals in Vaishnavite temples are based on Vaikhanasa Agamas and the Pancharathra Agamas, or the Five Nights. Pancharathra Agamas, considered an esoteric subject, is believed to have been taught by Lord Vishnu himself to the sages over five nights.

The total number of works, generally called the samhitas, exceeds 200, according to lists available in several works, though only a few are available in print.

Mr. Parthasarathy, head priest of Sri Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane, Chennai, welcomed the verdict.

While anybody could become priests, priests practising Vaikhanasa Agamas got the right by birth and anybody who did not wish for material wealth, and sacrificed his life for the purpose of the Agamas could be a priest, he said. A.M. Rajagopalan, astrologer, said the focus of any temple worship was on the agamas, not the idols.

Idols were just the medium between the worshippers and the agamas.

Not all Brahmins could be priests or were allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum of temples, and only those who had mastered the Agamas could become archakas, he said.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 11:34:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/temple-worship-focusses-on-agamas-not-idols/article7997393.ece

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