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Tirupati temple reaches out to Dalits
June 19, 2008 11:37 IST
Reaching out to Dalits and backward classes, the administration of the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirupati has launched several initiatives for the community including training them in performing temple rituals.
"The idea of taking up programmes with a social emphasis is to spread 'Sanatana Dharma' (universal religion) among the masses," B Karunakar Reddy, chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the body that administers the temple, said.
"Saints of yore like Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Telugu saint poet Annamacharya spread the ancient culture during their times. That tradition lost momentum for whatever reasons. This resulted in Hinduism facing threats. We have decided to take up social programmes as per the advice of elders to help sustain the credibility of religion," he said.
The social schemes being carried out by the TTD, one of the richest temple administrations in the world, includes 'Dalita Govindam' wherein the priests of the Tirupati temple carry the idols of the Lord and his two consorts to Dalit colonies and perform prayers there.
'Matsya Govindam' is another revolutionary initiative to train fishermen along the East Coast in Andhra Pradesh in performing rituals.
The fishermen will be taught the basic tenets of Vedic religion, evolution of temple system, the 'dos and dont's of idol worship, rituals, conduct of festivals and so on besides increasing rapport with devotees.
During the training session, the priests-to-be will have to wake up before dawn, perform yoga, meditation, recite 'slokas' and attend classes.
Asked if the initiative faced criticism from puritans, Reddy replied in the negative.
In fact, it is important to reach out to the dalits and scheduled tribes to revive Hinduism in a big way, he stressed.
In another initiative called 'Bhakti Chaitanya Yatra', several 'raths' carrying the idols of the deities criss-cross the length and breadth of Andhra Pradesh spreading the 'Bhakti' culture of Lord Venkateswara.
Some of the other programmes include 'Kalyanamasthu' - mass marriage scheme for poor couples, free distribution of text books to economically-backward children and providing free food to devotees visiting the Tirupati temple.
Reddy said the aim of undertaking programmes like 'Dalita Govindam' was to spread the message that Hinduism and Hindu way of life is far superior and sets a standard to all other faiths in different aspects.
These initiatives are not at all an attack on other religions, he said.
In addition to other programmes, the TTD will be launching its own television channel on July seven to spread ancient Indian culture, the TTD Chairman said.
President Pratibha Patil [Images] would launch 'Sri Venkateswara Bhakti Channel' as part of the 'Amritotsavam', TTD's diamond jubilee celebration.
He hoped the channel would be an effective medium to communicate the ideals of TTD to lakhs of people.