The Indian caste system and ‘priesthood of all believers’ warning

Feb 1, 2024 by

Letter to the Church of England Newspaper:

Mr Modi the Prime Minister of India has been called on to respect India’s secular foundations following his recent dedication of the most important Hindu temple in India.  The Times called this ‘a political statement’.

It was far more than that.

Canon Vinay Samuel in Bangalore has written the following

“Only Brahmins , the priestly caste are permitted to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of any temple, Only Brahmins can hold an Idol in their hands and only they can conduct any religious ceremony. In the four tiers of the caste system Mr Modi belongs to the ‘ Backward Castes’ of the fourth tier. Such castes cannot enter the sanctum let alone handle a deity. This was no ordinary ceremony. It was the installation of an Idol invoking God to reside in it and make himself known through it.”

His dedication of the temple usurped the role of the Brahminical priesthood and upended the whole Hindu religious and social order in one stroke. It was as revolutionary as the action of the Buddha who set aside the priestly system.

Mr Modi has democratised the whole Indian religious system to empower the majority of Hindus, who are not Brahmins, to know they have a stake and a role in their national religion. His purpose is clear: to inaugurate a new era for India where Hindus no longer feel oppressed by their priestly caste but can all be united in their religious observances in a ‘priesthood of all believers’.

What western liberal could not support this ‘liberationist’ development? Yet we must note that this is all in the cause of Hindu religious nationalism.

Chris Sugden (Canon Dr) Presbyter of the Church of South India 1978-83

Church of England Newspaper February 2 2024

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