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In most temples and homes, especially in villages, low-caste people are not allowed.

These regulations are being followed for thousands of years now.

What is the reason behind such practice? What do scriptures say about this?

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    Can you give some example like which temple , which place etc.I haven't heard of such a thing.Yes in some temples people not allowed to touch murthy or allowed in "Garbha Gruha" or inside where the main idol is placed for traditional purpose. Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 5:02
  • I think the restriction may be on the outcaste not the low caste. In any case the one who knows the rules of dharma shastras and follows the restrictions of the related agamas for the temples is allowed to do worship in the temple. For example in tirupati temple no one except Vaikansa agama followers(all bramhins) are allowed to do archana in temple no one else is allowed.
    – Yogi
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 13:30

3 Answers 3

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Well,the Hindu Shastras ,mostly consider the lowest caste,the Sudra,as being impure and also consider that they can transmit this impurity to other objects or living beings by touch or association etc.

Similar are the rules,for the fallen caste or the outcaste or the chandala.

I'm adding here a few verses from the Parashara Smriti,which is widely regarded as the Dharma Shastra to be followed in the current Yuga i.e the Kali Yuga.

21. If himself unwashed, he is touched by a Shoodra, who, however, is not unwashed, — the purification is to wash himself. If an unwashed Shoodra touches an unwashed regenerate man, the latter must perform the prajapatya penance

  1. Bronze vessels smelt by a cow, or polluted by a dog or a crow, or if a Shoodra has made them unclean by eating off them, are rendered pure, when they have been ten times rubbed with ashes.

  2. While a Brahman has not washed himself after taking his meals, if he chances to be touched by another yet unwashed after a meal, or by a dog, or by a Shoodra, he should fast for a single night, and then swallow the five articles derived from a cow, whereby purity is restored to- him.

The above verses make it clear that the Sudras have the ability to make things/beings impure by his touch.

Some more verses:

  1. To eat a Shoodra's food, to associate with him, to sit in the same place with, him, and receive knowledge by his instruction, would cause degradation even to one who resembles the kindled fire

  2. Salt, honey and oil, curded milk, whey, and milk all these are not polluted by the touch of persons of the Shoodra caste.Shoodra may sell these to all the castes.

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Verse 35 clearly states that a Sudra can make many things impure simply by his touch .

The Manu Smriti states that Sudras are created out of Tamas(the mode of darkness,ignorance etc)(one of the 3 Gunas,the other two being Sattva and Rajas).

Manu Smriti 12.43. Elephants, horses, Sudras, and despicable barbarians, lions, tigers, and boars (are) the middling states, caused by (the quality of) Darkness.

So,the temple priests,who are all Brahmins,might be apprehensive of the fact that ,if the Sudras by accident touch them or any other objects in Temples,might render them impure.

To make them and themselves pure again(which is of course the first necessity in rituals) would be a cumbersome job.

That is probably the reason why such prohibitions are there regarding the Sudras and the outcastes entering Temple premises.

Although, i don't really know which Temples actually have such restrictions.

Also, take a look at the following verse which says that it is not all about caste by birth only:

  1. A Brahman, ignorant of the Gayatri hymn, is more unclean than even a Shoodra ; the Brahmans who know the nature and the sanctity of the Gayatri hymn, are honored and revered by all persons(Parashara Smriti)

So,even an ignorant Brahmin should be stopped from entering Temples.

But preventing Sudras from entering houses of the Higher castes is of course not supported by Scriptures.Because, to serve the higher castes is considered to be the only job of a Sudra.And to serve anyone a Sudra should first be allowed entry to his house.

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The Vedas state that the Sudras are created from the feet of the Supreme Being.So,like everyone else,they are also a part of the Almighty,and they too reserve the right to worship the Almighty.

brāhmao’sya mukham ās īt | bāhūrājanyakta | ūrū tada sya yad vaiśya | padbhy āgśūdro aj āyata || 13 ||

The brahmin was his mouth, of both His arms was the Raja made. His thighs became the Vaishya, from His feet was the Shudra produced. 13(Purusha Suktam verse 13)

So,i am not quite in favor of stopping them from entering Temples.

Also,its not practically possible to check either, if someone entering a Temple is a Sudra(by birth) or an ignorant Brahmin like the one described above.

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    How should we interpret Shudra here? The one with Tamas guna or the low caste born, as all low caste borns don't have Tamas predominantly.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 9:54
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    @TheDestroyer Yes you are right..that's y i have mentioned in the answer that such verification is not practically possible..Even a Brahmin who does not know the Vedas is worst than a Sudra as far as impurity is concerned..In anycase i just indicated the Scriptural basis of why such prohibitions mite be practiced in our society.. I'm in no way favoring such practices..
    – Rickross
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 10:05
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    @Rickross Superb explanation.:) Adding to it: A Shudra in the original dynamic caste system is also considered a dirty individual. Anyone can be dirty, at the period one is dirty it is not appropriate to enter a temple. A home is considered as temple so it is also not permitted. Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 6:02
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    Even if some brahman wrote something in Sanskrit that doesn't mean that it all is true. All your explanation is nothing more than superstitious (Andhvishvas) of earlier time people. Even Shree Ram ate fruits of Shabri (wo bhi juthe ber) and Shree krishna also had many friends in Gokul who was from low caste but still he ate with them play with them. So don't spread such things that shudra are anything like non touchable. All your explanation are being made by those brahman who had lost their true path of mankind or humanity.
    – Vishvam
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:47
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    @Rickross The saint who wrote Ramayan and Mahabharat, clearly mentioned great msg of Lord Ram and krishan in they script. Lord krishan use to eat makhan with all of their low caste friends, and he even use to eat their eaten makhan (juthan). When one day Brahma sees krishan eating with low caste and even eating their juthan then he start thinking, he is truly Lord himself. How Parbrahma can eat with that low caste (shudra)? So he made up his mind to test whether he is actually Lord or not? To test him Brahma kidnapped all his friends and cows [continue....]
    – Vishvam
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 17:27
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Scriptures say that all people should be treated equally.

Enlightened men are those who see the same in a Brahmana with learning and humility, in a cow, in an elephant, and even in a dog or in an eater of dog-meat.

Gita 5.18

Then there is this passage which explains how a person who sees the same in everything behaves.

Bhishma continued [Suka said],’..By knowledge, one attains to that whither there is no occasion for grief; whither one becomes freed from birth and death; whither one is not subject to decrepitude; whither one transcends the state of conscious existence; whither is Brahma which is Supreme, Unmanifest, immutable, ever-existent, imperceptible, above the reach of pain, immortal, and transcending destruction; whither all become freed from the influence of all pairs of opposites (like pleasure and pain, etc), as also wish or purpose. Reaching that stage, they cast equal eyes on everything, becoming universal friends and devoted to the good of all the creatures.’

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCXLI

Gita and Mahabharata say that one should treat all people equally by becoming universal friends of all, doing good to all, whether in a temple or outside. It is not possible to be universal friends of all if you prevent fellow Hindus from entering a temple.

There are some Smritis that say otherwise but they clearly are in conflict with the Gita. One Smriti asks molten lead to be poured in the ears of a Sudra if he dares to listen to the Vedas. Some temples do not allow lower caste people to enter temples inspired by such appalling and vicious statements. It is of course now illegal to stop any Hindu from entering a Hindu temple. Unfortunately the enforcement of the law is lax in some village areas. People who stop fellow Hindus from entering temples should be punished in exemplary fashion to stop this pernicious practice.

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    It's not about treating people the same, it's about seeing that their Atmas are the same. Just because people have the same sorts of Atmas doesn't mean society treating them the same. Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 6:16
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    @sv. The sanskrit verse is "vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini śuni caiva śva-pāke ca paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ". So, Humble people with true knowledge see all species as same.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 7:41
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    "It is of course now illegal to stop any Hindu from entering a Hindu temple. Unfortunately the enforcement of the law is lax in some village areas." I, one the other hand, think it's quite fortunate that the government has not cracked down on all traditional temple practices. Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 8:00
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    Friends please answer my question for what reason they are not allowing low caste ? and dont think about today's government
    – Sakthi
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 8:16
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    @sakthi, will you shake hands with someone when you're eating ? why not ? because it's considered unclean, right ? similarly, there are lot of rules determining what is clean and unclean - and temples follow the strictest of such rules. Low caste people are not expected to stay clean because of the nature of their job e.g. it is stupid to expect a sewage cleaner or mortuary cremator to be spic-and-span all the time cos his duty demands him to be dirty. A temple priest however, has to bathe thrice a day. since dharma shastra dictates temples must be clean, they do not allow unclean persons.
    – ram
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 7:00
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Its a myth that Sudras are not allowed into temples. Even Chandalas are allowed into temples. Sudras can even become priests in temples.

  1. A pavilion is set up either in the outer courtyard of the temple or even beyond the main Gopuram. The deity is taken in procession and then seated in the pavilion to receive worship in front of all the devotees -Then the Vedas, Agamas, Itihasas and Puranas and Prabandhas are all chanted in front of devotees of all castes. (Isvara Samhita 12.228 – 250)
  2. A Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Sudra who is filled with mindfulness of Bhagavan, endowed with faith and devotion, accomplished, of a peaceful disposition, who has faith in the Vedas, truthful, of good behavior, learned in Pancharatra and having thorough knowledge of philosophy, a devotee of God and born in a family of devotees shall be chosen as acharya. (Isvara Samhita 16.5-6 )
  3. Even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even if born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Aryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas and fulfilled everything required. (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.33.6–7)
  4. A Chandala who is a pure Vaishnava at heart and who decorates the eleven parts of his body with Vishnu-Tilaka and sandalwood paste is always worshipable, even by the best of Brahmanas. (Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda 66.84)
  5. If a devotee of Vishnu, even though he be a Chandala, is recollected, named, seen or touched accidentally by anybody, O dear madam, the former purifies them. (Varaha Purana 211.9)
  6. On the outskirts of the city named Avanti lived a Chandala. At night he would go to Vishnu’s temple and sing praises of Vishnu. He never failed to observe this ritual...The Chandala went to the temple. He worshipped Vishnu and spent the night in singing Vishnu’s praises..(Bramha Purana)
  7. Ramanujacharya gave Panchamas the title of “Tirukkulattar” or the “Blessed Descendants,” and further allowed them the privilege of entering into the Holy Temples. Ramanuja opened the doors of religious instructions for these classes, as well as certain modes of ritual. Ramanuja had already confirmed too in his own days, what his predecessors had ordained, viz.,the enshrinement of saints in the Temples, to whatever caste they may belong to.(The Life of Ramanuja)

PV Kane in his History of the Dharma Sastra Vol 2 Part 1 Page 93 says

There is no taint of untouchability when a person is touched by an untouchable in a temple, religious processions and marriages, in sacrifices, and in all festivals’ (Atri verse 249). Sātātapa quoted in the Smriti Candrika declares that there is no doṣa in touching untouchables in a village on the public road or in a religious procession or in an affray and the like, and also when the whole village is involved in a calamity. Brhaspati also remarks that there is no fault and so no prāyaścitta if one comes in contact with untouchables at a sacred place, in marriage processions and religious processions, in battle, when the country is invaded, or when the town or village is on fire. The Smṛtyārthasāra summarises the places where no blame in incurred on the ground of mixing with untouchables viz. in battle, on public roads leading to a market, in religious processions, in temples, in festivals, in sacrifices, at sacred places, in calamities or invasions of the country or village, on the banks of large sheets of water, in the presence of great persons, when there is a sudden fire or other great calamity. It is somewhat remarkable that the Smṛtyārthasāra speaks of untouchables entering temples. Nirnaya-sindhu quotes a passage of the Devī-Purāṇa that expressly authorizes antyajas to establish a temple of Bhairava.

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