Meet the first Dalit priest of a Kerala temple


The 22-year-old is the first Dalit priest at a state-sponsored temple

Yadukrishnan chants the Gayatri Mantra in a soft voice but it carries through the 150-year-old Siva temple in Keezhcherivalkadavu, a small hamlet in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. His day began at 4.30 a.m. and after a dip in the Pampa river, it is time to prepare for his priestly duties. Soon there will be a throng of devotees to attend to.

As a little boy, Yadukrishnan would collect flowers for pujas at the village temple in Chalakudy, Thrissur district, where his parents worked as farmers. He seemed to have an interest in temple rituals even as a child, recall his parents, P.K. Ravi and Leela.

When he was six, he was recruited as a helper at the temple by K.K. Anirudhan, who was the tantri (priest) there; and at 12, the boy joined the residential Sree Gurudeva Vaidika Tantra Vidyapeedhom, a religious school, run by the tantri in North Paravur, Ernakulam district.

Glory at 22

Yadukrishnan’s parents could not have known then that their son would, at 22, become the first Dalit head priest (melsanthi) to be appointed at a temple run by the State-sponsored Travancore Devaswom Board