Hindu priests from Rajasthan are seeking greener pastures in foreign countries.
Thanks to the growing demand for pundits, mainly in the West and Asia, an increasing number of seasoned professionals besides astrology students are simply flying out of India. Hindus in Jaipur say the pundits are sought in Mauritius, Thailand, Kenya, US, Germany, Holland, England and Australia where Indians of Rajasthani origin live in large numbers.
Knowledge of Vedas, ceremonial rituals and post-death ceremonies is an added advantage to those seeking a career abroad where the earnings are good.
The increase in the demand for pundits has prompted the Sanskrit department of University of Rajasthan to start three new diploma courses this academic session so that more people can get a degree in Vedic literature.
"Each course has 40 seats," said Vinod Shastri, professor in the university.
"Pundits are respected and very well treated in foreign countries. They have a very good salary structure," Mahesh Bang, a Jaipur priest who goes abroad regularly, told IANS
Now, several non-Brahmin students are also taking admission in astrology related courses run by educational institutes.
"There is a huge dearth of good pundits overseas. We think over 5,000 pundits are required in various countries. We try to place our brilliant students in these countries," said Shastri. "I am sending two of my students to Mauritius."
Said Yogesh Shastri, a Hindu scholar, "I recently visited South Africa and Mauritius. I was called to perform rituals on the occasion of the installation of idols of goddess Durga, Sarawati and Kali in South Africa.
"Viewing the demand of pundits in foreign countries, I plan to start a website that can provide recruitment details to local pundits," he added.
But since English is required to deal with the Indian diaspora, the pundits are eagerly embracing the language.
About 70 students enrolled for English language classes held in Jaipur in December 2006 and January 2007.