CHENNAI, INDIA, October 1, 2023 (Indian Express by Arun Janardhanan): The Tamil Nadu state Supreme Court this week ordered status quo on the appointment of archakas (priests) in Agamic temples in Tamil Nadu. The Srirangam Koil Miras Kainkaryaparagal Matrum Athanai Sarntha Koilgalin Miraskain-karyaparargalin Nalasangam, an association of archakas, had challenged reforms introduced by the DMK government, which are seen as attempting to change the hereditary system of appointing archakas in Agama temples. The petitioners asked for the quashing of the state government’s order and letters dated July 27 and August 28, 2023, respectively, which paved the way for individuals trained in Agama Sastra, irrespective of caste and gender, to assume priesthood. The petitioners alleged the state government was unlawfully attempting to appoint non-believers as archakas, infringing upon religious rights protected under the Constitution. They contended that knowledge of the Agamas, which are significant religious practices, could not be secured by completing the one-year certificate course run by the government, but required years of rigorous training under learned gurus.

Senior Advocate Guru Krishna Kumar cited Supreme Court rulings from 1972 and 2016 to emphasize the necessity of adhering to Agama traditions for appointing archakas in Agama temples. A priest from a prominent temple in Chennai argued that rules that apply to other faiths may not necessarily apply to the Hindu religion. “Christianity has a system to manage and appoint priests. But the situation is different in Hinduism, with its innumerable traditions, contradictions, and thousands of Gods and Goddesses,” he said, requesting anonymity. “Learning Agama Sastra in a year doesn’t equip one to manage a temple, which is a combination of experiential concepts, ideas, and dedication. Temple administration is not the same as running a company, and Agama Sastra is not a black book,” the priest said. The debate over the appointment of temple priests in Tamil Nadu stems from various government and judicial actions.

To read more including the contested Supreme Court rulings see source.