“I do not remember anyone from my family ever having entered this temple,” said 69-year-old Chittrayee.
Chittrayee is one among the 50 Dalits from Thirumangalam village in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai who entered Pekkaman Karuppasamy temple for the first time in their lives, after a long time the Dalits from the Paraiyar community had been denied entry to the 400 year old local temple by the caste Hindus.
The event which is the result of years long legal battles of the Dalits community to reclaim their dignity and traditional right, took place on Friday evening under police protection.
This comes after an order from the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court. As the Dalits were denied permission to enter the temple, one of the Dalits approached the Madurai High Court following which the bench ordered the district administration to take cognisance of the matter.
The historical event was led by Tamil Nadu’s most prominent Dalit organisation Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).
“As the temple is surrounded by land that belonged to about twenty Dalit families, it is proof that they worshipped in this temple. However, the current scenario does not favour the Dalits,” Times of India quoted M Chinnasamy, a member of the VCK.
The local temple is surrounded by the homes of 20 Dalit families. They are the ones who maintain the temple and the priest also belongs to one of these families. However, apart from these 20 households, no other Dalit in the village was permitted to enter the temple. The Piramalai Kallars, a non-Dalit community, is said to have been the reason why the Paraiyars were denied access to the temple.
As the Dalits entered the temple, the caste Hindus in the village stayed away from the temple premises. Even the temple pujari deserted his post.