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First time ever, the Travancore Devaswom Board, the government body in charge of temple administration in Kerala has appointed 62 priests of which 36 are non-Brahmins including 6 Dalits.

They will be appointed on the basis of a written test and personal interviews, held by the board. Though the Travancore Devaswom has in the past appointed non-Brahmins, this is the first time Dalits have been appointed priests.

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Travancore Devaswom had kept a total of  32 per cent seats reserved for SC/ST and OBC categories.

“26 candidates from the upper caste community were chosen on merit, along with 36 Dalit candidates. Out of the 36, 16 of them were also chosen from the merit list. This is for the first time the Travancore Devaswom is appointing six Dalits as priests,” Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said in a Facebook post.

The board which was set up in 1949 some 1,248 shrines under its administration.

This move of Travancore Devaswom Board has attracted lot of criticism from Hindus

“We are not against the decision to appoint non-Brahmins as priests in temples. But there has to be a system to ensure that those who are being appointed have knowledge of tantric mantras. The recruitment should not be made following reservation norms. It should be made purely based on the knowledge and the belief systems followed by temples,’‘ Akkerman Kalidasan Bhattathiripad of All India Brahmin’s Federation told The Times of India.

It is also yet to be seen how the non-Brahmin priests will be welcomed by the devotees.