Kerala temple lifts centuries old ban that denied entry to Dalits

The scheduled caste people in the locality are not ready to openly challenge the discriminatory practices as some fear that it will 'provoke' the deity, others fear the local residents

Press Trust of India November 17, 2021 15:50:21 IST
Kerala temple lifts centuries old ban that denied entry to Dalits

Image used for representation only. PTI

Kasaragod: Three years ago, Krishna Mohana, a Dalit resident of a small village in the northernmost district of Kasaragod in Kerala, did something that was considered unthinkable for a person of his caste.

During the annual festival of Jatadhari 'Devasthanam' a temple at Swarga in Enmakaje panchayat bordering Karanataka, Mohana climbed the 18 holy steps forbidden steps in his case and entered the temple complex, a centuries-old right reserved for the upper castes' in the village.

A commotion followed, the police intervened and reached a compromise of sorts it was decided that Dalits would be allowed into the temple. In a strange twist that followed, the temple administrators claimed to have lost the keys to the temple, effectively shutting it down for everyone in the village.

Few days ago, a group of Dalits, led by Pattikajathi Kshema Samithi (PKS) from the district, entered the temple and climbed the very 18 steps that Mohana dared to traverse.

In doing so, they effectively declared an end to the age-old custom that had been prevailing in the village, despite the historic Temple Entry Proclamation, which came into effect in the region in 1947, that abolished the ban on avarnas entering temples.

The temple entry proclamation in the princely state of Travancore, now part of Kerala, that abolished the ban on avarnas entering temples was passed in 1936. The same came into effect in Kasaragod area which was under Malabar region in 1947.

"It's not just the ban on entry through the holy 18 steps, but Dalits are not even allowed to watch the Theyyam performance up close. They need to stand at a distance. Even to offer dakshina to the deity, the Dalits need to hand it over to a higher caste person, who in turn will deposit it before the deity," B M Pradeep, the district secretary of PKS told PTI.

He said PKS wants to put an end to the blatant discrimination.

Talking to PTI, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes, K Radhakrishnan admitted that such evil practices are being followed by some still in our society and a government order alone will not be enough to end such practices. He said societal intervention is required to end this menace.

Pradeep said the worst part is the food, which is considered as the prasadam of the deity an incarnation of Lord Shiva, being served separately.

"The temple authorities call out the names of the 'lower castes' to distribute the prasadam and Dalits are not allowed to consume the food near the temple while those of other castes can," he said.

"Our parents and forefathers faced the worst kind of discrimination and we also continue to battle the same", Mohana (45), a former state-level Badminton player and father of two, said.

"We are treated in an utmost disgusting manner. Think of our children. During the festival season, children from higher castes can play along the steps or inside the temple premises while our children can't. If this continues, what will I tell my children? When they ask what I have done against such discriminatory practices, I need to answer them," Mohana said.

Even though the members of the scheduled caste in the locality are concerned and disgusted by the discriminatory practice, most of them are not ready to openly challenge it. While some fear that it will 'provoke' the deity, others fear the local residents.

"We want them to consider us at least as humans," a member of the Dalit community told.

Updated Date:

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