For the first time, a person from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) community will be appointed as a priest in a temple shrine in Kerala, by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB). The apex body which oversees over 1200 shrines across the state has decided to appoint 19 priests - 18 of them belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community and one from the Schedule Tribe community - on a part-time basis.
The apex body manages several important shrines including that of Swamy Ayyappa at the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple. Speaking to TNM, N Vasu, President of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TBD) said that the recruitment board of the TDB decided to fill in vacancies in the temples.
“There is a reservation for SC/ST priest candidates within the TDB and the recruitment board was filling in these vacancies. While we have had SC priest appointments before, this is the first time that a priest from the ST community will be recruited. Candidates from both communities are eligible for the selection process,” he said.
Devaswom Minister Kadakkapally Surendran too confirmed the news, stating in his Facebook post that "This is for the first time that the temple body is appointing a scheduled tribe person as a priest in shrines under TDB.”
Those belonging to the ‘lowered’ castes are appointed as part-time shanti (priest) through special recruitments. He added that so far, 310 people have been selected for the post of part-time priests in the TDB from 2017.
Although there are four vacancies which need to be filled from the ST community, only one application was received, the minister said.
The Devaswom Minister also said that after the Left government came to power in Kerala, a total of 815 people have been selected for various posts for vacancies in the Travancore Devaswom Board, the Cochin Devaswom and Malabar Devaswom boards.
According to reports, a total of 133 non-Brahmin priests have been recruited in various temple shrines in Kerala in the last four-and-a-half years.