Breaking Caste Barriers

As all work related to Gokarnanatha Temple got over, I decided to appoint widows as Priests to perform religious rituals. I was disturbed by the way the society was treating widows particularly young widows. They were kept away from all important functions. They were not allowed to enter Temples or perform pujas. They were not even allowed to participate in the marriages of their own sons and daughters. The thought that how bad they must be feeling made me very disturbed.

"How can they become impure after the death of their husbands? ", I questioned myself while deciding to put an end to it.

I invited a group of widows and made them perform Chandika Homa. I made them wear bangles and vermilion on their forehead. People from all over the Nation appreciated my decision. Newspapers took note of it. "Some sort of revolution is happening in Kudroli," they wrote. Of course, there were lots of dissenting voices but I did not care for them. I thought it was God's wish and I did it.

Later, I invited a teacher to the Temple a widow from Scheduled Caste. I made her sit before the Shiva Temple and performed her Paada Pooja (worship of feet as a mark of respect). I made her perform Aarti besides appointing her as Priest of the Temple. Whole world looked at Kudroli with pride and appreciation. It paved way for many such experiments. Widows were allowed to participate in Holi celebration in Mathura taking note of my experience. Widows belonging to Scheduled Tribes were appointed as Priests in Temples in Pandavapura Taluk in Mandya District. People in Maharashtra waged a big fight to allow women to enter Shani Shingnapur where women were not allowed. High court had to interfere in the matter.

Thus, Kudroli Temple became witness to a social reform. Widows and women from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes still perform puja and other rituals at the Temple. Some people in TV debates took objection to it and declared that people will not go to Gokarnanatha Temple hereafter. But our people are very wise and they have the capacity to choose good over bad. The number of devotees visiting the Temple has increased manifold after these social changes.

People of Coastal districts of Karnataka are responsible for the revolutions taking place in Kudroli. Now, even Brahmin marriages are happening in the Temple. People from all over Karnataka are visiting the Temple. Sonia Gandhi, a widow, inaugurated the Centenary celebrations of the Temple. She was very happy when someone told her about the revolution that had happened in the Temple. But there will be some people who will always keep criticising. It's just impossible to change them.

In 'Chomana Dudi' a novel written by noted writer and Jnanapeetha awardee Shivaram Karanth, the protagonist Choma comes from Scheduled Caste Community. His son falls in a pond and though there were many people around, nobody rushes to his rescue because he is an untouchable. After battling for life for a few minutes, the kid drowns. Differentiating people on caste lines or rather any line, is not good for the Society. We are all human beings and humanity is the ultimate goal of mankind. Karanth has beautifully highlighted these values in his novel. Our people should understand this. "Can we remain as human beings after losing humanity? The skin colour of some of us may be black or white, but we are all human beings and the colour of the blood in all our bodies is red. Why should one wear his caste credentials on his sleeve or on his forehead? We should not turn blind to inequalities in our society.

Shivaram Karanth is not with us today but he has left behind certain values he stood for and Secular thinking is one among them. He married a woman from another community at a time when there were blind beliefs about caste and religion. We have failed to learn from him. Today, people are killing each other on caste lines. People are being killed for marrying into another community. There is an urgent need to fight this mentality. Young boys and girls are being killed in the name of family honour. What pride does one get by killing another human being? "Leading a life which is model for others is what honour is", in the real sense. Nobody is permanent here. What lies after our death is our work, our values which we stood for and fought for. We should do some good work. What good will anyone achieve by harming the Society?

Ravana was also a extremely knowledgeable Brahmin and he was very religious. But cruelty in him made him to set out to destroy a woman's life. His younger brother Vibheeshana tried to stop him. "Please don't do it. Our entire family will be ruined. Let us not harm anybody," he pleaded. Ravana did not oblige. All of us know the end result of Ravana's deeds. There is a lesson in this to our Society. If we don't realise it, then nobody can stop us from destroying ourselves.

In everyone's life many events happen. Some will be good and some will be bad. We should learn from these events and move forward. This is intelligence. If we all start believing what we do is right, then there is no end to it. Especially those in power should not develop such an attitude. Ravana also did the same thing and became responsible for his own downfall. Even Kamsa did it. Hiranyakashipu did it. Their arrogance led to their downfall.

People read Vedas and think that they are intelligent. They read religious books and Epics but never ever bother to inculcate values professed in such books. Mahabharat, Ramayana, Quran, Bible all have message for the Society and humanity. What is the use of reading if we don't follow values highlighted in these books?

Women have climbed Himalayas. It takes lot of determination, grit and effort to climb Himalayas. They are in the Army and in the war field. They have become pilots and doctors. Still our Society discriminates against them. Women are being seen as subservient to men. This is wrong and unacceptable. After social revolution that happened in Kudroli, many people used to criticise our stand in TV debates. I told them the same thing. "You have allowed widows to perform puja. People will not come to your Temple," they argued. "No, more people will come from now on", I told them. That is what happened. If we forget humanity, there will be a lot of turmoil in Society.

In Kudroli Temple, there is no discrimination between women and men. We consider both as God's children. All castes and creeds are one and the same for us. We have kept the Temple premises very clean. So is our heart. This is the speciality of this Temple.

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