Hindu American Foundation Applauds Tamil Nadu Anti-Caste Order

May 29, 2006

Source: Hindu American Foundation


On May 29, 2006 Hindu American Foundation reported, "The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) welcomed the a order of the government of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu allowing all Hindus with the required training and qualification to become archakas (priests) in temples regardless of caste. At present, only persons belonging to the Brahmin caste are eligible to become archakas. The order implements a 2002 ruling by the Supreme Court of India which held that a qualified person cannot be barred from priesthood merely on the basis of caste.

'We support the Tamil Nadu Govt's progressive outlook with regards to caste and hope that other states will enact similar legislation,' said Swaminathan Venkataraman, [m]ember of the Hindu American Foundation Executive Council. 'Equality in spiritual and religious rights for all Hindus is not a political issue, but rather one of basic human rights.'

Archakas are married householders who are responsible solely for the appropriate conduct of rituals in temples. Spiritual guidance and scriptural teachings come from renunciate monks who have always hailed from all castes and live in ashrams (monasteries) that are completely unconnected to temples. Thus, while the opening up of the priesthood to all Hindus is an essential step in eliminating all forms of caste-based inequality, it is also important to appreciate the somewhat limited role of archakas in Hinduism.

HAF urges all sections of Hindu society to accept and respect the new priests, who may not hail from a Brahmin background. Such a step is important in forging unity and equality among Hindus and in keeping with the highest teachings of Hindu scriptures.

While welcoming this change in Hindu society, HAF also bemoans the extensive government control in both administrative and financial matters of Hindu temples and educational institutions across India. Despite the nation's professed secular character, only Hindu establishments are subjected to such treatment, while other religious organizations are left unhindered. 'For Americans, it would be unthinkable for the U.S. government to interfere in the affairs of the Church, but in India, the selective manhandling of Hindu institutions is a sad reality,' said Mihir Meghani M.D., president of the Hindu American Foundation. 'While changes are required in Hindu society, it is also necessary that the Indian Government accord equal respect and rights to all religions.'"