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Filing ReligionState, Hinduism, and Courts of Law$
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Daniela Berti, Gilles Tarabout, and Raphaël Voix

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199463794

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199463794.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 21 September 2021

Birth vs Merit

Birth vs Merit

Kerala’s Temple Priests and the Courts*

(p.3) 1 Birth vs Merit
Filing Religion

Gilles Tarabout

Oxford University Press

In recent years, men born into non-Brahmanical castes have been appointed priests at public Brahmanical temples in Kerala. These appointments have been upheld by the Supreme Court in 2002, as an outcome of developments by which courts in India have come to define priesthood in terms of technical procedures performed by expert yet ‘secular’ persons. Considerable attention is now given to the qualification of temple priests, and their formal religious education is an increasingly important criterion with regards their employability. This is in acute tension with the former logic of appointing priests from specific families or castes. The chapter investigates this tension by studying recent decisions taken by Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court of India, which run counter to the very idea of birth qualification for priesthood. Such a departure is in fact in keeping with the Constitution, and obtains the support of most political parties, including Hindu nationalists.

Keywords:   Kerala, Hindu temple, priesthood, religious qualification, essential practice, secularization, Sanskritization, Supreme Court of India

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