Proposal to set up Sanskrit pathshalas in Karnataka to train priests faces criticism
The Muzrai department, which controls 34,543 temples in the state, has also called for recruiting priests from all castes.india Updated: Oct 11, 2017 17:52 IST
The Karnataka government’s proposal to set up Sanskrit pathshalas or schools to train priests in the southern state that is facing a shortage of people to officiate at temples has come under criticism from a former administrator for “promoting a monolithic view of Hindu culture”.
The Muzrai department, which controls 34,543 temples in the state that are classified into three categories based on the returns they receive in terms of gifts, has also called for recruiting priests from all castes, including from communities classified as Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
‘Mukhyamantri’ Chandru, a noted Kannada actor and the former chairman of the Kannada Development Authority, said the move to recruit people from different castes was welcome.
However, Chandru said the Congress government should rather pass an order asking priests of temples that come under the department to officiate in Kannada as that would help pilgrims understand the religious proceedings.
“It is troubling that the department feels a necessity to make priests learn Sanskrit,” Chandru said.
“There is no doubt that Sanskrit is a great language but should priests not use a language people who visit temples will understand? Besides, there is no diktat from any god that say they require Sanskrit to be the medium of worship,” he added.
Chandru said it showed a lack of historical knowledge of the administration as it insisted on Sanskrit because there were many gods and goddesses, especially in rural areas, who were not a part of the Vedic pantheon.
“There are many deities that are offered meat and alcohol by worshippers. What good will Vedic knowledge be to these gods?” Chandru asked.
He insisted that the move would privilege the Vedic traditions over the many local customs and beliefs that exist in the state, such as those of Dalits and backward castes.
Highlighting the Bhakti tradition and its rejection of ritualism, Chandru said the 12th-century reformer Basavanna had shown that Vedic rituals were not a prerequisite to worship gods. He said there were other Bhakti saints, who also composed devotional songs in the local languages to overcome Vedic ritualism.
Repeated attempts to reach Muzrai minister Rudrappa Lamani through calls and messages went unanswered.
With state elections scheduled to be held early next year, the promotion of Kannada has gained renewed significance as a result of a slew of measures proposed by the government.
Learning the language and standing up for the official state anthem has been made compulsory in schools, while usage of Hindi on signboards at Metro stations has been opposed, with the chief minister also supporting such opposition.
Chandru said his suggestion should be considered as a part of the state government’s proposal to regulate some superstitious practices.
“Is it not superstitious to believe that gods can only be addressed in Sanskrit?”