Nothing holy in India’s temple tradition
I wonder whether news of Indian priests doing a purification ritual after a minister belonging to a lower caste visited a temple comes as a surprise in a country where religion plays a big role in politics?
While officials in Orissa said they will question the priests for throwing away holy offerings and washing the floors after the minister’s visit to the temple this week, the incident has left the controversial minister angry.
Pramila Mallick, the Orissa state minister for women and child welfare, said her political rivals must have been behind it because she had been to the temple a few times without any fuss.
Mallick is said to be partial to lower caste voters who have been instrumental in her winning elections, while ignoring upper-caste people who administer temples.
Upper-caste Hindus may have tried to get even with her this time around, she said.
In spite of India’s secular constitution banning caste discrimination, Dalits, who represent 16 percent of India’s 1.1 billion population are sometimes beaten or killed for using a well or worshipping at a temple reserved for upper castes.
Dalit political leaders are also accused of instigating caste wars to help shore up voter support.
Temple politics is nothing new. India’s former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was stopped at the gates of the famous Jagannath temple in the town of Puri. She was deemed to have become an outcast after marrying a non-Hindu.
In 2007, the temple priests in Puri threw away food cooked for 7,000 devotees after a foreigner entered the temple.