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Dalits eye new rites in UP...

Dalits eye new rites in UP...

Author: Tarannum Manjul
Publication: The Hindustan  Times
Date: May 8, 2002
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/nonfram/080502/detnat01.asp

In a few days from now, another - the last and most decisive - bastion of the Hindu upper castes is set to fall in Uttar Pradesh. With the graduation of the first batch of curriculum-trained priests in the state, several Dalit pundits will be ready to offer their services for the entire range of traditional Hindu rites.

The class of 2002 in the UP Sanskrit Sansthan's paurohitya (priesthood) course includes several Dalit and other non-Brahmin students. The three- month course that was started in February, aimed at training students in the range of karmakand rites from mundan and vivah sanskar (marriage) to vrats (fasts) and tyohar (festivals).

The students have been trained by priests who were picked from a large pool of Sanskrit scholars in the state.

The scholars were given extensive training before being asked to fan out in the districts to impart their knowledge to priesthood-hopefuls. With the course now nearing completion almost everywhere, lists of successful trainees have begun to come in - they will receive certificates, and will be recognised as 'registered pundits' qualified to perform karmakand rites.

The course attracted 35 students on an average in each of the 70 districts where it was offered. It was welcomed enthusiastically at some places, and received a lukewarm response at others.

The maximum number of Dalit trainees in a district was five - in Varanasi. There were four in Lalitpur, three each in Gorakhpur and Unnao, two each in Mirzapur, Lucknow and Chitrakoot, and one each in Jaunpur, Deoria, Mau, Ambedkarnagar and Kushinagar.

"We had kept the course open for everyone, as we wanted the knowledge to be made available to all," said Dr Sachidanand Pathak, director of Sanskrit Sansthan.

"But we had no idea that we would receive such a good response from castes other than Brahmins as well."

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