Tuesday, February 23, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Orissa’s Lingaraj temple denigrates dalits


Orissa's Lingaraj temple denigrates dalits

Saturday, 13 February 2010 20:08
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 13: The Lingaraj Temple here — a famous Shaivite
shrine of the country — was on Saturday witness to an archaic custom,
which denigrated the dalit Hindus. The dalits were allowed to enter
the 11th-century shrine as cleaners who

removed heaps of flowers and "bela" leaves (a kind leaf offered to
Lord Shiva). However, barely hours after the cleaning, the temple
premises were washed as part of purification ritual, which belittles
the members of the community.

The custom, considered unique to any Hindu temple, is observed on the
day after the Mahashivratri every year. While the dalits are barred
from entering the temple in the rest of the year, this is the only day
when they get the opportunity to visit the shrine and worship the
deities. "The custom is centuries-old. The temple is always littered
with bela leaves and flowers, showered on the deity on the occasion of
Mahashivratri. So the dalits are called upon the next day to clean the
temple. Later they are allowed to worship the Lord in lieu of their
service," Nrusingha Mahapatr, a senior member of the Brahman Nijog, (a
body of priests in the temple) told this newspaper. "The priests later
perform purification rituals in the shrine by giving the deities a
ceremonial bath and washing the walls and floor of the sanctum
sanctorum, while chanting shlokas," he added.

The daily rituals of the deity begin only after the sanctification of
the temple. Even the prasad is offered to the deity after purification
ceremony. "Earlier, the upper caste devotees used to desert the temple
during the period. But time has changed now. Of late, the upper caste
people joined the dalits during the period to worship," he pointed

"The custom is being followed for centuries. We never felt to do it
away," temple administrator P.K. Das told this newspaper.

A senior temple official, however, conceded that the custom is an
affront to the dignity of the dalits and hastened to add, "We are
helpless as any initiative to do it away will invite strong opposition
from the priests and the traditionalists."

Rabindra Nath Choudhury


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