In a sharp departure from tradition, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams has decided to train non-Brahmins in temple rituals and practices. About 200 people from dalit and backward communities will be given rigorous training for three months as part of a pilot project. To begin with, the beneficiaries will be selected from Chittoor and West Godavari districts.
This is the first time that the administration of the world’s richest temple is offering a certificate course in Vedic rituals for dalits and backward classes. Earlier, the TTD had conducted several short training sessions for tribal priests in Vedic rituals. But now, the training will be full-fledged with a certificate awarded at the end of the programme.
“The TTD will train youths from downtrodden sections of society in temple rituals. We will focus on people living in remote and backward areas. The endowments department, in association with the TTD, will also build temples in far-flung villages. Once the training session is over, these youths will be handed over the task of daily rituals in those proposed temples,” AP endowments minister P Manikyala Rao said.
The TTD had earlier launched a similar initiative, Dalita Govindam, to spread the Hindu Dharma in Dalit hamlets by training the youths in offering ‘prasadam’ to the deity. “It was a week-long programme. They were simply trained in offering ‘prasadam’ and a couple of rituals. There was no follow-up action either. Now we will take up a comprehensive training program,” said an official in the endowments department. The TTD will conduct the certificate program in Sri Venkateswara Vedic University.
According to TTD officials, ‘Agamas’ (traditional doctrine for temple ritual) are of three types. While the highest form of these rituals is practised by traditional priests, the other two forms can be performed by the general public.
As part of the certificate program, about 100 youth each from West Godavari and Chittoor districts will be trained in ‘Smartha’ traditions. Smartha deals with all types of common rituals in a family including fixing muhurthams for weddings. The training programme will focus on the general tenets of the Vedic religion, evolution of temple system, the dos and don’ts of idol worship and rituals, and conduct of festivals among other things. During the training session, the priests-to-be should wake up before the sunrise, perform yoga and recite the prescribed mantras before attending to the classroom.