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.
Can a Dalit become a priest?
According to this Hindustan Times news article:
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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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:
Arya Samaj : Swami Dayanand, Arya Samaj and his contribution in Dalit Upliftment ( ref: http://www.aryasamaj.com/enews/2015/apr/7.htm )
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.
also related links are:
- Examples of Varna migration in Hindu mythology?
- Can a person change his caste in Hinduism?
- Can a Sudra become a Brahmin in 'this' birth?
- temple where upper castes bow to Dalits Priests since 200 years https://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/a-temple-where-upper-castes-bow-to-dalits/story-Qbl3vPUXX53GxP9UyPBjfO.html
temple where only married Dalit women are priestesses, and also males can not touch the idols. This temple is even more older than 400+ years.