Dalits....Pujari????Don't know if this is factual...got it in my mail.
Kota, September 29, 2005
The times are changing. People from backward communities, are today being trained to become temple priests and are even performing private pujas. This is happening in Rajasthan's Kota district at the instance of the Rajasthan Sanskrit Academy and a Kotabased institute - Sanskritam.
Young Dalit boys are being exposed to various disciplines in Hindu priesthood as well as to the related subject of astrology. Though the training is not very extensive, Sanjay Sharma, a spokesperson for Sanskritam said, "We hope that some of the boys would go on to become priests and get absorbed in temples across the country".
At a 20-day camp held recently, nearly a dozen boys from different backward communities and some forward communities like Rajputs participated enthusiastically. Astrology and courses in religious rituals till now were the sole preserve of the forward Brahmin community. If there were objections to "untouchables" gaining access to divine knowledge, the Academy muted it as a tribute to the changing times.
Convenor of Sanskritam, Pandit Shyamanand Mishra told Hindustan Times, "Right to imbibe the knowledge of Vedas is not the sole authority of any sect or caste. It is ultimately in the interest of the backward community youth to learn priesthood for social change."
Asked if he was being "courageous" in trying to break into an upper caste bastion, a backward caste student, Rakesh Kumar, said: "Everyone is a Shudra by birth. Religious texts say that the caste system came into existence depending on ones deeds and action (karma)."
Asked if he thought he would be accepted as a priest, Rakesh said that he too would use the Pandit suffix for advertisements. Rakesh has also taken lessons in astrology and aims to become a perfect priest. Another backward community student, Suresh Kumar Patel was confident enough of becoming a complete professional.
Sharma said the institute has been holding training camps since past four years and the number of dalit students joining the course have gone up drastically. He accepts that not a single case of appointment has come to the notice of the institute so far.