New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS): As part of its effort to end the practice of caste discrimination and untouchability in society, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has succeeded in training around 5,000 Dalits as priests across the country, a VHP leader claimed on Friday.
VHP National Spokesman Vinod Bansal told IANS that due to the efforts of the organisation, many such priests have been taken on the panels of government-run temples.
"We have achieved a huge success in southern India. There is a large number of Dalit priests in southern states. In Tamil Nadu alone, 2,500 priests have been trained due to the efforts of the VHP. There are a large number of Dalit priests in Andhra Pradesh also. The VHP has achieved a huge success in training of 5,000 Dalit priests," he said.
Two wings of the VHP are involved in the matter, ensuring training in the conduct of different religious rituals to the Dalits interested in religious matters. They are even provided certificates at the end of their training.
Bansal pointed out that such priests in the south are given certificates by Andhra Pradesh-based Tirupati Balaji temple once they get proficient in handling different religious ceremonies and rituals.
The VHP leader said that five years after it was set up in 1964, the organisation started working to end caste discrimination and untouchability in society.
He pointed out that the decision to help end untouchability was taken at a VHP convention in Udupi in Karnataka in 1969, where Hindu seers had sent out a message that 'all Hindus are brothers and no one is untouchable'.
He added that in order to take this initiative further, VHP leaders and other saints had gone to the home of 'Dom Raja' to invite him to the 'Dharam Sansad' held in Kashi (Varanasi) in 1994 and had even had a meal at his house.
In 1989, the VHP got the foundation stone of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya laid by a Dalit, Kameshwar Choupal, to send out the message of an egalitarian society. He has since been taken on the trust set up to oversee the construction of the new temple.