The stranglehold of caste remains strong on the temples of Tamil Nadu. Of the 207 non-Brahmin government-selected temple archakas (priests) in the state, only two have been appointed. The remaining 203 (two have died) have been waiting for appointment orders for the past 13 years. The two appointees, Marichamy and Thiagarajan, were deputed to small temples in Madurai—one devoted to Ganesh and another to Aiyappa. They belong to an OBC community and draw a monthly salary of Rs 9,500 for 11 hours of work a day. “Even they managed to get in only because they responded to newspaper advertisements and performed better than the Brahmin candidates in the interview. Their selection proves that training is important, just like in any other job, not their caste,” says Tamil Nadu Government Trained Archakas Association president V. Ranganathan.
With 38,000 temples under its control, the state’s temple administration department should not have difficulty in filling the existing vacancies. But the stumbling block has been the traditional archakas, most of whom are Brahmins.