Tamil Nadu reviving priest training schools: Students to receive monthly stipend of ₹3,000.

The Tamil Nadu government is reviving its training of temple priests at six schools (Archakar Payirchi Palli) that were first set up by the ruling DMK during its previous term in power in 2007, according to an official of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department.

The six schools – four in Shaivite tradition (located in Tiruvannamalai, Madurai, Palani, and Tiruchendur) and two in Vaishnavite tradition (located in Chennai and Srirangam) – have each called for applications from interested students between the age of 14 and 24 for the one-year course. The students would also receive a monthly stipend of 3,000.

Training for Odhuvars (those who chant hymns before a deity) had been going on at these institutes since October. The training for Archakars is likely to begin next March, according to the HR&CE department official.

“Two weeks ago, all the renovation was complete. We are now processing applications for the schools,” said the official.

After an initial batch of students passed out in 2008, the schools were mired in legal hurdles and remained inactive throughout the tenure of the AIADMK government – 2011-2020. Two priests who passed out in the initial batch were appointed under the AIADMK regime.

In June, Minister of HR&CE, Sekar Babu, had said the schools are likely to reopen in June and that women were also welcome to apply for training this time. When the government completed 100 days in office in August, 24 non-Brahmin priests were given appointment orders, along with a woman Odhuvar (one who chants hymns before the deity). Stalin was implementing an order passed by Karunanidhi (during his tenure in 2006-2011) in entirety to allow priesthood at temples for people of all castes and births for those who are formally trained in the agamas and the other ritual texts.

“This is a first step towards victory in social justice that priests from all communities can perform poojas as equals in temples,” said V Ranganathan, state president, Tamil Nadu Association for Trained Archakas.

“The main goal is to eradicate untouchability. We hope students come forward to be trained and we want the government to ensure that they also get appointments at the main temples that receive higher revenue.”

Source- Hindustan Times.

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