Priest Carries “Untouchable” Into Temple in Defiance of Indian Caste System
A Hindu priest from a temple within Hyderabad, India recently made headlines for carrying a Dalit, the caste formerly known as the untouchables, along his shoulders and into the temple. Many conservatives see the priest, named CS Rangarajan as a spitfire for bringing an “impure” being into a temple; most Indian temples forbid Dalits from entering their grounds. Rangarajan wanted to remind people that all were equal in God’s opinion.
Despite legislation protecting them, Dalits have long-suffered under the caste system. This 200-million-person social class continues to face discrimination on a daily basis. As members of a lower caste, Dalits were always kept separate from whatever the upper castes enjoyed, leading to inferior education and employment.
After Rangarajan and Aditya, the Dalit youth, made it inside of the Chilkur Balaji temple, the two entered prayer and performed the common rituals. Aditya, choosing only to give his first name, commented that Dalit discrimination originates from Indian society, rather than Hindu scripture. Aditya sees himself as a religious and philosophical scholar. Rangarajan claims he was moved to act after attending a discussion on Dalit society that mentioned the legend of Thriuppan Alwar, a Dalit devotee, being carried into a temple by a Hindu priest.
The legend stated because that Dalits were banned from Srirangam temple, a Hindu holy site, Alwar would sit outside its grounds and continually perform devotional music. One sage eventually tires of Alwar’s defiance and stones him, causing him to flee with blood gushing from his body. After the sage returned to his temple, he saw that the idol was bleeding from the same area where he had stoned Alwar. The sage then sought out the Dalit and carried him aloft into the temple. Alwar was later canonized.
After recounting the tale, Rangarajan remarked how some Dalits questioned if he truly believed a priest would help Dalits in present times. Rangarajan decided to call their bluff and show that such compassion still existed today.