The Madras High Court on 22nd July held that Archakas can be of any caste in non-agama temples and government rules for hiring priests will not apply to Agamic based temples. On a cursory glance, there is no role for government in recruiting Archakas for temples that will be taken care of hereditary trustees or in their absence fit persons (a government official).
The first bench comprising Justice Munishwar Nath and Justice N Mala held that Rules 7 and 9 of the TN Hindu Religious institutions employees (conditions of services) Rules of 2020 which prescribe eligibility qualification and age for appointment of temple priests will not apply to temples that has been built and administered as per the specific Agama Sastras (treatise on temple rituals). The judges said “government can appoint people of any caste as Archakas in temples established not as per agamas. “ we have threadbare analyzed the provisions of the rules and find 7 and 9 can’t be held unconstitutional as such, because it is not only applicable to appointment of Archakas but even to other posts”.
The Judges ordered TN government to set up a five-member committee, headed by retired HC Judge M Chockalingam , Madras Sanskrit College executive committee head and former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy to identify temples that has been built as per Agama treatise.. it directed the HR and CE Commissioner should be an ex-officio member of the committee and two other members should be nominated by the government in consultation with chairman, within a month. Then the committee should begin identifying the agamas based temples and to ensure the appointment of Archakas to those temples should be in accordance with the relevant agama sastra and not as per the statutory rules, which would apply only to non-agamic temples. “ The temple or group of temples which were constructed as per the agama would be governed by the custom and practice not only in respect of the worship of the deity but also in all respects which includes the appointment of Archakas” the bench clarified.
The bench said Saivite temples are government by 28 agamas with the most important of them being Kamikagama, karanagama and suprabedagama and for Vaishanavite temples, Vaiknasa and Panchatrata The bench gave this verdict after disposing a batch of writ petitions filed by All India Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Seva Sangam, South Indian Viakanasa Arachakas , Sri Koonampatti Kalyanapuri Aadheenam and others.
On the same day, reviving the Archaka training schools , TN CM MK Stalin inaugurated virtually six such schools. The Madras High Court on 27th July this year disposed of a batch of petitions related to appointment of Archakas to various temples in the State after concurring with the HR&CE department that Fit Persons (temporary administrators) can make the appointments in the absence of temple trustees. The Bench made it clear that if any of the appointments had been made either in violation of the relevant rules or the dictum laid down by the Supreme Court in Seshammal versus State of Tamil Nadu (1972) or the Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal case (2015), those appointments could be challenged by way of individual writ petitions.
The DMK government, since returning to power last year, has been appointing Archakas of all castes to temples maintained by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department. In 2006, then chief minister M. Karunanidhi issued a GO declaring any person with the “requisite qualification and training” was eligible for the post of Archaka in any one of the 44,713 temples that are under the HR and CE
Thillai Karthikeyasivam says where towers, sanctum sanctorum, flag mast, kalas at top the tower are generally found in agama sastra temples. “If we apply this rules, all saiva, vaishnava, Kaali, Mariyamman, Ayyanar temples come under this category. Even in mutts, samadhis where idols of pontiffs are installed, there poojas are being done as per agama. Majority of the temples fall in this line. . The identification of the temples in reference to the Agamas is a pre-requisite for appointment of Archaka/Poojari, because different Agamas have different Agamas have different worshipping procedures, rituals and customs to be followed.
Hindu Munnani functionary said the law says government can’t interfere in daily routines of the temples particularly in procedures for worship. All religious and spiritual issues should be decided by the mutts, seers and others not the government. Already non-Brahmins and all caste people are Archakas or poojari in temples. Priests who have been doing this generation after generation, or a member of such deminations who have hereditary rights should not be replaced. We have agama, Vedic based and swambu (where deity form on its own) temples. The court should have banned the government from interfering in temple affairs in toto. The traditional Archakas, servitors and cooks have been taking care of the Temple according to established ancient practices smoothly for hundreds of years, the present anti-Hindu government with visceral hatred for Sanatana Dharma and Hindus wants to destroy and completely kill ancient Hindu Temples. The HC verdict looks positive but allowing fit persons or trustee (both are government appointees) to recruit is very dangerous.