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`Brahmins do not have monopoly over temple puja'

New Delhi Oct. 5. In a judgment of far-reaching consequences, the Supreme Court has ruled that Brahmins do not have monopoly over performing puja in a temple and said a non-Brahmin, properly trained and well-versed in the rituals, could be appointed as a pujari.

``As long as anyone well-versed and properly-trained and qualified to perform the puja in a manner conducive and appropriate to the worship of the particular deity, is appointed as santhikaran (pujari) ... , no valid or legally justifiable grievance can be made in a court of law,'' the court said on Thursday.

This ruling was given by a Bench comprising Justice S. Rajendra Babu and Justice Doraiswamy Raju, while upholding the appointment of a non-Brahmin as pujari in Kongoopilly Neerikode Siva Temple at Alangad village in Ernakulam, Kerala.

Justice Raju, writing for the Bench, said no doubt only a qualified person well-versed and properly trained for the purpose could perform pujas in the temple, since he had not only to enter the sanctum sanctorum but also touch the idol.

``It therefore goes without saying that what is required and expected of one to perform the rituals and conduct pujas is to know the rituals to be performed and mantras, as necessary, to be recited for the particular deity and the method of worship or ordained thereof,'' he said.

The court said that if traditionally or conventionally, in any temple, all along a Brahmin alone was conducting pujas or performing the job of santhikaran, it might not be because a person other than the Brahmin was prohibited from doing so because he was not a Brahmin. It might be because others were not in a position and, as a matter of fact, were prohibited from learning, reciting or mastering Vedic literature, rites or performance of rituals and wearing sacred thread by getting initiated into the order. ``Consequently there is no justification to insist that a Brahmin or Malayala Brahmin in this case, alone can perform the rites and rituals in the temple, as part of the rights and freedom guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution and further claim that any deviation would tantamount to violation of any such guarantee under the Constitution,'' Justice Raju said. The court said the vision of the founding fathers of the Constitution to liberate society from blind and ritualistic adherence to mere traditional superstitious beliefs sans reason or rational basis has found expression in the form of Article 17 of the Constitution.— PTI

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