If a person belonging to the Dalit caste is chosen to be a priest, is that allowed? I do understand that Gita says varna is by actions and not by birth. Although, in practice, we see a lot of discrimination based on the family a person is born in.

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    A person born in a Dalit family can become a priest from the Varna point of view. I think there are some temples where some Dalits have been given training as priest. Apr 17, 2016 at 15:32
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    There are some temples where dalits are priests.
    – The Destroyer
    Apr 17, 2016 at 16:21
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    The simple answer is no.
    – user9554
    Mar 26, 2018 at 0:40
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    @TheLittleNaruto I already did.
    – user9554
    Mar 27, 2018 at 15:21
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    @Amit Saxena- shudras and the avarnas have their own temples specific to their community where they practice their own kind of rituals. Dalits being outside Hinduism how can they become poojari in hindu temples? No. In Agamic temples only varna assigned with that task Brahmin can be a poojari. Of course they can have separate temples as they do presently and conduct worship per their customs. May 7, 2020 at 5:24

2 Answers 2


Can a Dalit become a priest?


According to this Hindustan Times news article:

enter image description here [More than 200 people belonging to SC, ST and fishermen communities are being trained by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams to appoint them in temples the trust is constructing across Andhra Pradesh.]

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the country’s richest religious centre, has decided to appoint Dalits, Adivasis and fishermen as priests in temples it's building across Andhra Pradesh to push for social inclusion.

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Traditionally, only Brahmins can hold the distinguished position in the temple even as the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment stated that the eligibility for priesthood should be based on the knowledge of rites and traditions, and not the caste.

Although there is a catch:

Unlike the TDB [Travancore Devaswom Board], the Devasthanams [TTD] will, however, not appoint the trained priests from the backward communities in the “regular temples” it operates. Instead, the trainees will be accommodated as priests in temples it is constructing in various Dalit colonies, tribal areas and fishermen villages across the state.

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In all the existing temples the independent trust operates, only traditional Brahmin priests perform the rituals and pujas.

The following explains the possible reason behind this shift in attitude towards dalits.

A senior TTD official, who refused to be quoted, said the main objective of training SC, ST and BC priests and appointing them in temples in their own villages is to prevent religious conversions.

"In many parts of the state, people belonging to backward communities are being lured into other religions like Islam and Christianity, because of caste discrimination among Hindus," he said.

"The TTD has taken up this programme to remove the social stigma and give these people a sense of belonging in Hinduism," the official said.


Additionally to the above answer, other social movements within Hindu religion have also advocated and practised Dalit preists in past too:

Shahu’s other initiatives included restricting child marriage in his state and the encouragement of intercaste marriage and widow remarriage. He long patronized the satya shodhak samaj but later moved towards the Aryasamaj. Under the influence of these social-reform movements, Sahu arranged for several non-Brahmin youths to be trained to function as priests, in defiance of timeless convention which reserved the priesthood for those of the Brahmin caste. However, he faced opposition from many, including Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak , the very famous patriot of that time. In 1911 a thread giving ceremony was performed among Vashisht, a Dalit community in khairpur, nathamshah in Sind.

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