U’khand HC delivers a blow to untouchability at Har ki Pauri
A division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court ruled that no priest could refuse to perform ceremonies irrespective of the caste of the pilgrims
Acknowledging complaints of untouchability at Har ki Pauri, Haridwar, and high caste priests not accepting alms offered by pilgrims belonging to lower castes, a division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court ruled that no priest could refuse to perform ceremonies irrespective of the caste of the pilgrims.
Justice Lok Pal Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma pulled up the Haridwar administration for unilaterally taking the decision to shift a staircase adjacent to a Ravidas Temple next to a dharmashala at Har ki Pauri, Haridwar. The bench noted that there are no other dharamshalas in the close vicinity of the river.
It directed the administration to first consult members of the SC/ST community before moving the staircase, a decision which was taken in 2016 and for which a sum of ₹42 lakh was sanctioned.
The judgment also stated: “All persons, irrespective of their caste, are permitted to enter/visit any temple throughout the state of Uttarakhand without any discrimination”.
Ruling that any properly trained person of any caste could be appointed as priest, the bench directed the state government to take all steps necessary to maintain, improve and beautify the Ravi Das temple and its surroundings after holding consultations with the community members.
Sant Ravi Das is believed to be a younger contemporary of Kabir. Forty of Ravi Das’ compositions are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, which makes him the poet most frequently cited in the Guru Granth Sahib after Kabir and Namdev. Yet, Ravi Das is worshipped largely by people belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
It is worth noting that in Uttarakhand, Brahminical priests first appeared around 700 years ago.
- In Uttarakhand, original folk deities represent forces of nature and/or local heroes like Golla Dev.
- Each village has its presiding deity other than those from Sanatan pantheon. So, a priestly class as in the plains did not exist till the 13-14th Century.
- These deities’ periodically wander around and enter humans. They also go on Jatras in palanquins, like goddess Nanda of the mountains.
- These gods are easily propitiated with home cooked Prasad made of millets, jaggery, milk, sacrificial goats along with flowers and fruits directly offered by the families.
- Brahminical priests, Namboodiris to perform Vedic ritualistic Pooja were first appointed by Adi Shankaracharya in Badrinath and Pashupatinath.
- Ancient Vishnu Lakshmi Krishna temples are rare and located mostly in towns.