The Madras High Court has pointed observations against the Dravidian model government regarding appointing individuals who underwent crash courses as priests (Archakas) in the Hindu Agama Tiruchendur Subramaniya Swamy temple. The High Court’s recent stance is seen as another setback for the ruling party in Tamil Nadu.
Veerabagu Murthy and Harihara Subramanian, President and Joint Secretary of the Tiruchendur Subramaniya Swamy temple’s independent Paripalana Sthalastar Sabha moved the court against a Government Order issued by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) department.
This order, issued on August 28, 2023, directed the appointment of individuals trained under the ‘All Castes Can Become Priests’ scheme as trainee priests under senior priests.
The petitioners argued that the Government’s order was illegal, highlighting the existence of Thirisudhandhirargal, who has undergone rigorous Agama training. They emphasised the complexity of studying Vedas and Agamas, noting the impracticality of learning them comprehensively within the Government’s one-year training program. They objected to appointing these trainees as new Archakas and sought a stay on the Government Order, stating that apprentice priests would receive a monthly salary of Rs 8000 from the temple fund.
During proceedings, the Government’s counsel contended that only individuals, not associations, could file such cases. Justice S Srimathy reserved an order after hearing arguments on September 15.
The judgment, pronounced on December 1, reflected the judge’s view that temples should not function as training centres or laboratories. The court asserted that training within the temple premises under a senior Archaka went against Agama principles. Justice Srimathy highlighted that the HR and CE departments failed to specify the Agama under which candidates were trained.
Citing a prior ordinance from 2007, the judge ruled in favour of the petitioners, imposing an interim stay on the DMK Government’s order, citing it contradicted Supreme Court and High Court orders, with a related case pending in the Supreme Court. This development follows Justice N Anand Venkatesh’s earlier directive in June, emphasising that caste should not influence the appointment of Archakas in Tamil Nadu temples. The primary qualification for an Archaka appointment is a thorough understanding of Agama principles pertinent to the respective temple, irrespective of caste.