PALIGANJ, INDIA, June 30, 2007: A low-caste Hindu has been appointed priest of the Ram-Janki Devi temple at Paliganj, 60 kilometers from Patna. Janardan Manjhi, the newly appointed priest of the temple, was earlier serving in a Dalit temple. Traditionally, priesthood is restricted only to brahmins. But the temple authorities, by law, have broken the tradition and allowed Manjhi, a Mushar tribal, to take to priesthood. It took temple administrator Kishore Kunal six months to select Manjhi, who is not well versed in Sanskrit. During this period, temple authorities checked his credentials and his devotion to God. "I am feeling very nice and excited. I had never thought of this. I used to dream of this day when I would distribute the prasad here. Now my dream has come true," said Manjhi.
Residents say the move would set an example for those indulging in casteism. "Casteism was rife here and, because of that, conversions had begun. Earlier peoople never let the Untouchables in the temple. So it is a good move which will lead to easing of such thinking," said Pankaj Kumar, a resident. At present, non-brahmin priests perform rituals in a few temples of certain sects, mostly in rural areas. The Supreme Court had ruled in 2002 members of the so-called Dalits could also be appointed as priests in temples as long as they were qualified to conduct the rituals.