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?
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Its a myth that Sudras are not allowed into temples. Even Chandalas are allowed into temples. Sudras can even become priests in temples.
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.