The Candid Eye

April 19, 2010

A temple where upper castes bow to Dalits

Stories of socially marginalised people not being allowed into places of worship are common in India. In such a scenario, a Dalit family presiding over an Uttar Pradesh temple for ages is nothing short of exemplary.

It’s only Dalits who have been priests of the Kali Mata temple, dedicated to goddess Durga, in Lakhna town in Etawah, some 300 km from Lucknow, ever since the shrine came up around 200 years ago.

‘Caste divisions and discrimination may not have given Dalits a place of respectability in society, but here as priests they are revered,’ Ram Dular Rajbhar, who owns a grocery store in the town, said.

‘Be it Brahmins, Thakurs or people from any of the other higher castes, after coming inside the temple, all have to bow before the Dalit priests and touch their feet. For others it may be surprising, but it has become a custom for us,’ he added.

Goddess Durga

Situated along the banks of the Yamuna river, the temple is sought after by the residents of Lakhna town for holding marriages, ‘mundan’ (tonsure ceremony of Hindu children) or other rituals particularly performed by Brahmins or members of the upper caste.

‘It’s not just a temple. It’s a place that is an example of social equality,’ said Umesh Dixit, who owns several garment shops in Lakhna town.

‘People in Lakhna also approach the priests to name their babies as it is believed that names given by Dalit priests would bring good luck and prosperity to the children and their families,’ he added.

According to locals, there’s a story behind the custom of Dalit priests. They say King Jaipal Singh, who got the temple constructed, made it mandatory that the priest of the temple would only be a Dalit.

‘While the construction of the temple was under way, Jaipal Singh noticed a Dalit labourer, Chhotelal, was being assaulted by a group of upper caste people for touching the idol that was to be placed inside the temple,’ said another resident Ram Raksha Pandey, who owns an eating joint in Lakhna.

‘Jaipalji soon intervened in the matter and said only Chhotelal and his family would be taking care of the temple after its construction. Since then, the practice has been alive,’ he added.

At present two brothers, Ashok Kumar, 43, and Akhilesh Kumar, 45, who are fourth generation descendants of Chhotelal are the priests at the temple.

Source: Sify

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February 17, 2010

Pastor held for detaining three Manipuri kids

Pastor Albert Karunagaran of Purasaiwalkam was arrested by the CB-CID on Wednesday for helping Immanuel — from whose unregistered NGO, Reach Home Children Foundation, the police rescued 16 Manipuri children on January 21 — keep three Manipuri children in hiding for more than 10 days.

When the police rescued the 16 children, three were reportedly hidden in a cupboard in the house. Later, the three were shifted to different houses, including Karunagaran’s, before they were produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on February 4, the police said.

Child Trafficking

Karunagaran had also helped Immanuel shift the children to other houses in Pammal. Two other pastors, Sam Yesudoss and Paul, are said have assisted Immanuel, who had been operating from his hideout and made a bid to send back the three children to Manipur clandestinely through Esther, a former warden of his home.

According to Esther, who now works as a receptionist at a hotel in Lucknow, Immanuel called her over the phone on January 22. He asked her to rush to Chennai and take back the three children she had brought with her in 2008.

Child Trafficking

When she reached the city on January 26, a representative of Immanuel received her and took her to a house, where she saw the three malnourished children, Esther said. Immanuel told her that he was in trouble, gave her Rs 15,000 and asked her to take the children to Manipur secretly. “At that time, I was not aware of the earlier developments,” she said.

Esther had worked as a warden at the children’s home in 2006 for a year before returning to Manipur. She got a call from Immanuel in 2008, who told her that he had received more funds and could help some more children pursue their education. So she brought the three children to the NGO.

In 2006, he had been running another home in Madavaram with 60 children, which he closed down subsequently, she said.A senior officer from the CB-CID said Immanuel has links with several pastors in Andhra Pradesh, Bangalore and Tirunelveli.

Source: Express Buzz

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