Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bihar temple comes of age with Dalit head priest

About 10,000 people of Paliganj village will attend a grand ceremony that will mark the installation of Janardan Majhi today

PATNA: Winds of change seem to be blowing in the rural areas of Bihar. The religious rituals in a remote Hindu temple at Paliganj, around 40 kilometres from the state capital, here will be performed by a Dalit priest without any objections by the Brahmins or other upper caste people.

As a mark of their approval, about 10000 persons from different sections of society would attend a community feast (Pangat) to mark the installation of Janardan Majhi now Janardan Das as the chief priest of the ancient temple at Paliganj on Saturday. The birth anniversary day of saint Kabir falls on this day.

The Bihar State Religious Trust Board (BSRTB) had constituted a Temple Trust Committee for the smooth management of this ancient temple that has 100 acres of valuable land under its possession. The temple trust committee is also be headed by a Dalit — Sidheshwar Majhi.

The Secretary of the committee, Suresh Kashyap also belongs to an extremely backward caste. Chief Administrator of BSRTB, Kishor Kunal said that the said temple was considered to be one of the most affluent temples of Bihar but in course of time almost all the land belonging to the temple had been encroached.

Some people had occupied it forcefully while others had purchased it unlawfully by paying just peanuts to the successive priests. But by his concerted efforts and clean image, Kunal succeeded in retrieving more than 50 percent land of the temple and constituted a temple management committee to look after the temple.

Impressed by the action of BSRTB, many others have volunteered to return the temple land. This is not the first temple to have a Dalit as its chief priest, said Kunal. The Mahavir Temple of Patna, Vishal Nath Mandir at Hajipur and Shiva Mandir at Bihta all have Dalits as their chief priests.

No comments: