Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
World famous Lord Lingaraj of Bhubaneswar is in coma for two days as his caste-supremacist sevayats – the Brahmins and the Badus – have halted his worship and indulged in internecine quarrels and free-for-all assaults amongst themselves to grab the money devotees donate.
This is the second time in a couple of weeks that the Lord has been kept in coma by his sevayats; the preceding phase perpetrated over their egoistic demand for removal of the guard-railings put around the Linga that the ASI had done to save it from acidic effects of the ingredients used in its bathing.
Sevayats had stopped his worship for several days which was resumed only after the railings were partly removed.
The present phase is precipitated on the question of right over the money the visiting devotees offer after having seen the Linga.
The temple administration regrets its inability to ensure regular worship of the Lord as the sevayats have the traditional monopoly over the rituals. And, the sevayats, in order to exhibit how powerful are they in their domain, have developed a habit of stopping the worship as and when they want without any concern for the devotees, specifically the thousands of them coming from outside the city as well as the State.
Not only in Lingaraj temple of Bhubaneswar but also in Sri Jagannath temple of Puri and in many other important temples, the caste supremacist sevayats have several times in recent past kept the deities arbitrarily out of worship under any pretext that suites them.
And, instead of taking stern action against these sevayats, the State government has always succumbed to their fundamentalistic blackmail, though thereby the Constitutional commitment to free the society from caste hegemony has been severely compromised.
It is time to take the issue seriously.
Caste hegemony in worship of a deity should be quashed.
Most of the sevayats are uneducated. They are not able to utter the mantras correctly and to interpret the scriptures in the context of the deities they worship.
The farce should stop.
The sevayats should be qualified persons with abundant knowledge in contextual scriptures and expertise in relevant rituals with proven ability to link them to the living society.
They should be appointed from general pool on basis of interviews and in limited numbers against regular salary under conditionality of stringent disciplinary action in instances of dereliction in duties.
There should be no caste preference in appointing such sevayats.
There are many deities in Orissa that are worshiped by non-Brahmins. Hence appointment of qualified non-Brahmins as sevayats in all the temples will in no way be harmful to the deities or to the society.
The deities, as the ongoing tussle in Lingaraj temple suggests, need urgent rescue from the clutches of the caste-supremacists if they are to stay socially relevant any more.