he thorn in social revolutionary Periyar E.V. Ramasamy's heart has been removed, claims Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi. On May 23, the Tamil Development, Culture and Religious Endowments department issued Government Order (GO) No. 118 by declaring that "Hindus belonging to all castes possessing suitable qualifications and training will be appointed as priests to Hindu temples". This was in pursuance of a 2002 Supreme Court judgement upholding the appointment of a non-Brahmin as a priest in Kerala. Though political observers see it as a symbolic gesture, the move, if translated into action, could have important repercussions for the practice of Hinduism where priesthood has traditionally been a Brahmin preserve.
How would the GO impact Hindu practice? Here are some pointers:
- Non-Brahmins can become priests for the first time in Shaivite and Vaishnavite temples. These are temples which generate huge revenues;
- The unwritten rule about hereditary, familial succession will no longer hold;
- The Hindu Religious and...