[Reader-list] Dalit musician banned at Guruvayoor temple

Asit Das asit1917 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 17 04:07:21 CST 2014

Dalit musician banned at Guruvayoor temple
Written by Shaju
Thiruvananthapuram | January 17, 2014 12:59

A dalit percussion artiste was banned from performing within the precincts
of the famous Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor in Kerala, bringing back
the spectre of caste-based discrimination. The temple in Thrissur district
is open to all Hindus.

A taxi driver by profession, Kalloor Babu, 40, has been playing ‘elathalam’
— one of the five instruments in panchavadyam — for the past 15 years. He
used to go for panchavadyam performance outside the temple along with
artistes belonging to other Hindu segments, particularly the Marar sect.
Marar, an upper class Nair segment, is a community traditionally performing
percussion instruments in temples.

On January 5, Babu got a chance to make his debut performance within the
temple. Thinking that there was nothing wrong in a Dalit performing
elathalam, a metallic musical instrument which looks like a miniature of
cymbals, Babu took part in the panchavadyam ensemble within the temple.

According to Babu, “Certain temple staff members belonging to upper class
Hindu spotted the Dalit performing at the temple. They complained to the
temple authorities, who asked me through an agent not to repeat the
performance in the temple. I have been banned on caste basis.”

Babu said the upper class members in the panchavadyam team had persuaded
him to join them in the temple performance. Non-Marar upper class Hindus
are performing kombu, a wind instrument, as part of panchavadyam.

“If a Dalit is offering a lamp to the temple, the priests have no qualms.
If a Dalit is offering money, the temple does not throw it away on the
ground that the amount was from backward caste. If they can accept Dalit
money, why not allow a Dalit to perform elathalam,” asks Babu.

Deputy administrator Vijayan Nambair said certain temple staff complained
against Babu performing within temple precincts. “There is an age-old
tradition in the temple that only Marar community members should beat drum
instruments. Although several Hindu organisations and writers have
protested against the decision on the Dalit performer, we have to look at
the tradition. Temple thantri would have to decide on whether the custom
has to be changed or not,” said Nambair.

Guruvayoor Temple Affairs Board chairman and Congress leader T V
Chandramohan said the board has received a complaint from an organisation
against the decision on the Dalit artist. “We will look into the issue in
the January 21 meeting,” he said.

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