Breaking a centuries-old right traditionally held by male priests, a 12-year-old girl in Kerala has installed the idol of goddess Durga in a temple near here.
The girl, Jyotsna, performed the idol installation rites — known in local parlance as prathishta karmam — on Sunday at Painknnikkavu Bhadhrakali temple with full support of senior members of her family.
As per temple traditions followed by Kerala for centuries, only a few Namboodiri (a caste) families have the right to install idols in new or renovated temples and they are known as thanthris (traditional high priests).
This practice was openly challenged over a century back by saint-reformer Sreenarayana Guru, who hails from a backward class background, by installing the idol of Lord Shiva at Aruvippuram in south Kerala.
There are also isolated instances of women having performed the rite, but it is the first time a Brahmin woman is performing the rites in an ancient temple.
Daughter of Thekkinyedath Padmanabhan Namboodiri and Archana Antharjanam, Jyotsna has shown keen interest in temple rituals and poojas from her early childhood.
Two years back, she was initiated into learning the rituals and mantras by her father. Hailing from the family of Thrananallur Thanthris, Jyotsna learnt the mantras and rituals with great dedication, her father said.
“We did not face any resistance from the community or devotees when Jyotsna was chosen to perform the ritual. In no scriptures is it said that only men should install idols in temples,” Namboodiri said.
A seventh standard student in a church-run school, Jyotsna’s teachers said she also excels in studies.
“I am interested in pursing Hindu scriptures and rituals without sacrificing my school studies,” she said.