Tamil Nadu

Training as per Agamas, a pre-requisite for appointing women as priests: Minister

Tamil Nadu Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments P.K. Sekar Babu. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Minister P.K. Sekarbabu’s recent remark on the appointment of women as “archaka” (priest) in temples has triggered a debate on whether it could be implemented in temples which follow Agamas.

According to the Minister, women, who get trained at the relevant schools in accordance with the Agamas, will have to pass a test before being considered for appointment as priests. However, the government will proceed in the matter only after a thorough discussion with all stakeholders on the subject, Mr. Sekarbabu says. “We are not going to forcefully make anyone priests.”

He told The Hindu on Tuesday that any such appointment would be made only in small temples and not in big temples such as Parthasarathy temple, Triplicane, and Vadivudai Amman temple, Thiruvottiryur. When pressed further, the Minister replied that “let women come forward first.”

Notwithstanding the government’s inclination, experts in the fields of law and temple affairs, are of the view that the Supreme Court, through its 2015 judgment in the Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Nala Sangam v/s the Government of Tamil Nadu case, settled the issue of appointment of priests. The Court had held that the appointment of priests “will have to be made in accordance with the Agamas, subject to their due identification as well as their conformity with the Constitutional mandates and principles as discussed above [in the judgement].”

A former Commissioner of HR&CE Department says that of about 42,000 temples under the Department’s control, only about 5,000 temples follow the Agamas. The remaining are non-Agama temples, where women priests can be appointed. As regards the temples that are adhering to the Agamas, there are no women priests.

T. Satyamurthy, former Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and founder president of the Rural Education and Conservation of Heritage Foundation, says that there is no explicit restriction in the Agamas on employing women priests but functions and roles associated with priests, as prescribed by the Agamas, make it almost impossible for women to be priests. One such illustration is the Agamas’ prescription on the nature of cloth to be worn while performing religious rites.

However, there is no bar on women being made priests in temples which do not follow Agamas, Dr. Satyamurthy says, pointing out that many village temples do have women priests.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 9:28:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/training-as-per-agamas-a-pre-requisite-for-appointing-women-as-priests-minister/article34831357.ece

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