Friday, October 17, 2008

Selvam, S. “Secularism in Hindu Temples: The Implication for Caste,” Contributions to Indian Sociology 31:1 (1997): 27-50.

Selvam, S. “Secularism in Hindu Temples: The Implication for Caste,” Contributions to Indian Sociology 31:1 (1997): 27-50.

28-Summary: Paper looks at secularization of “Brahmanical” (Sanskrit diety worshipping) temples and its implications for castes. Especially looks at temples’ disengagement from political power, their rationalization, the decline in importance of purity, changes in the priestly community, and temple staff changes.

-Adds that secularization is not noticed in daily performance of rituals

30- For Selvam, secularization’s most important definition comes from Srivnivas 1966, pointing to replacing traditional beliefs w/ mod rational knowledge; eg. bureaucratization and “the dominance of experts over traditional authority”

-“In the temple arena, it is manifested in the administrative supremacy of the executive office over the internal department” and the ending of the caste system b/c “The caste system provided the structural basis of Hinduism” (cf Dumont 1988), and bureaucratization changes that

-and “the process of secularization does not remove religion as such, but rather seeks to alter certain religious practices”

31-Data from (1990-1991) the Kumbeswarar temple, a Saivite temple that’s prominent in Kumbakonam, a shrine cite; “For centuries the growth and expansion of commercial activities in the town were centered around the temple”; a longtime “stronghold of Brahmanism”

-area has unique tradition, combining bhakti (devotion to personal deity is very important and is allowed for all people) and Brahmanic w/ regional traditions, and some temples were only for Brahmans and upper castes—(32) that’s what Kumbeswarar was

32-In medieval times, the state protected and sponsored the temples and in turn got legitimacy—this was controlled by a social bloc composed of kings, Brahmans, and upper Vellalars

-so temples were therefore “centres of power”

33-Temples had avenues for jobs, including patronage; temple leaders “played a significant role in all important annual social events”

-King performed his “dharmic” duty in protecting temple, his agents or ministers were the “immediate support base of the king’s authority”—and this “has undergone significant change”

-the modern (post-Independence) state abolished the “traditional trusteeship” w/ the Temple Entry Proclamation 1939 and bringing in bureaucracy—which led to the end of monopoly by upper castes

-in the 1970s the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) movement (which was atheist, rational, and anti-Brahman) in Karunanidhi abolished traditional priesthood, (34) and had temples start orphanages and teach kids musical instruments, though the supreme court tried to stall the abolishment of the priesthood

34-Anti-Brhman political ideology declined w/ Jayalalitha government; they started the Chief Minister’s Temple Renovation and Maintenance Fund for upkeep of temples; and the Tamil Nadu Institute of Vedic Science to train priests to translate Sanskrit texts—both programs increased both religious and state control

-said the Institute would allow untouchables to become priests, though this hasn’t happened yet because courses haven’t started

-Though the Dravidian Movement had already took apart the controlling bloc, putting many non-Brahmans in public sector jobs and in higher ed; now there’s no need for religious legitimacy w/ a “secular constitution and universal franchise”

35-modern bureaucracy is the belief in the “’legality’ of patterns of normative rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands (legal authority” (cited from Weber The Theory of Social…) as well as in rationality; originally brought w/ the HRCE w/ its executive office in individual temples, installed “differentiated structures”, “distribution of authority fixed by formal rules and a regular procedural routine”—the HRE was est. 1926, and its Act passed in 1927

-HRE had “elaborate centralized administrative structure”, went under many amendments, replaced by HRCE Act of 1951, which also was amended a lot; then in 1959 the Madras HRCE Act (XXII) came and remains legal basis today

36-Tamil Nadu temples are governed by the Agamas, but since 1959, each has a document (the “Scheme”) that is its charter

-Kumbeswarar’s Scheme was first framed in 1938, then modified in 1947, 1955, and 1957 to bring it in line w/ state amendments; it includes “duties of the executive officer and trustees, the scriptural traditions of the temple, the daily and annual cycle of worship of festivals” etc.—and says temple’s property is possession of temple Deity—different than before when properties went to individual people (or their families) who ran the temple

-The HRCE is under the Ministry of HRCE; the HRCE department is headed by an IAS officer appointed by the State government, and called commissioner; and the commissioner has joint, deputy and assistant commissioners under him. Deputies have office, and so do assistants. Each one’s office oversees hundreds of temples in a specific area; some deputy and joint commissioners are also executive officers in temples with large incomes

.37-Temples are classified and graded by annual income, and the higher the income, the higher the qualifications required for the executive offices; higher levels are through appointment as well as deputies and joint commissioners, as long as they are believing Hindus—and some are from “Untouchable” castes

-executive officers are appointed—he possesses all temple land and properties, responsible for day-to-day administration, organizes festivals, (38) and leasing its land—though he does work w/ appointed trustees; executive officer appoints all temple employees except “hereditary office-holders, the priests” though he can discipline and fire the priests

-each temple has its internal department for different offices concerning worship and none of these, except priests, are hereditary anymore, though they generally are filled by some castes as before—lower castes still excluded in internal department

39-for priests, hereditary succession is still used, but “service conditions have changed immensely”; measures, like the State HRCE Service Conditions 1964, were imposed to correct for “priests’ lack of Agamic knowledge and skills in the organization of performance of worship and their alleged extortionist practices.” Now priests need a certificate from an Agamic School, though it’s not strictly enforced due to practical problems, and most do short-term courses

40-in high income temples, priests take cash gifts and money from tickets for arcanai as payment (the traditional way); in smaller temples priests also accept monthly salaries

41-now each priest has a service register, which kept tract of their professional history; misuse of worship materials can get him in trouble; an attendance register must also be signed; they record the money they get from private worship; retirement age is now 60; and there is a pay scale with dearness and rent allowances.

42-“Adisaiva priests are slowly adapting themselves to a situation in which they are employees of the temple rather than servants of the deity in the traditional sense”, they still “reign supreme” in matters of worship, but executive officers can still discipline them

-Adisaivas are increasingly getting jobs outside the temple, non-priestly jobs, which pay better, though they will become priests if nothing better is available

43-factors for this, besides financial reasons, are the de-linking of priests and temples form traditional authority (especially political); (44) and changes in economic structures since independences have eroded profits from temple land—b/c there’s no longer royal patronage; they have created the Association of Priests, a trade union, to ask the government to include them in the Schedule of Backward classes—though it hasn’t done it yet

45-3 trade unions, 1 for priests, 1 for officers and other workers, and 1 for executive officers and anyone else (though the priests don’t join it)—(46) the priests went on strike in Tamil Nadu in 1990, and were supported by other unions

48-Now, the universalization of temples has led to decline in corporate power

49-priests are secularizing themselves through education and unions and pay scales—this might lead to secularizing the whole community

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