Row over auction of priests' for marriages at Annavaram Temple

KAKINADA: Priests and others at the Sri Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy Temple in Annavaram have opposed a decision by the temple’s trust board that a payment must be made to the temple when certain rituals are performed there.

The board decided on a fee of '5,000 for performing Upananam or marriages, for all communities on temple premises at the Ratnagiri Hills on the temple premises.

As per the decision, the priests for marriage rituals will be allocated by a contractor who wins an auction conducted by the temple authorities. The marriage parties have to make the payment to contractors.
The priests will get the amount from the contractor. So far, priests were getting substantial sums from those who seek to perform such rituals at the temple.

The associations of priests, the Brahmin association and other temple staff rose in protest and submitted a representation to the temple’s executive officer Chandrasekhar Azad. Following this, he EO temporarily stopped the auction process.

The EO explained to them that the trust board took the decision with a view to eliminate middle-men (mediators) and to streamline the system. Some Brahmins, who are not priests, are acting as Purohits and performing marriages. Recently, a Christian was seen performing a marriage at the temple. He acted as a Purohit due to the influence mediators wielded in the temple, the EO noted.

The association leaders pleaded that the EO should cancel the fees of Rs 5,000 to the temple. The EO agreed to reduce the fees to Rs 1,500.

The Andhra Pradesh Purohit Brahmin Samakhya state general secretary Lakshmana Rao told Deccan Chronicle that they have not accepted the fee-reduction offer of the EO. “The temple should cancel the fees and the contractor system. It is for the temple trust board to eliminate mediators as they are currently taking a fee of Rs 250 from marriage parties.

He said many of those who want to conduct the marriage ritual in the temple were the backward of middle class communities or those below the poverty line. “It is difficult for them to pay even Rs 1.500 as fee to the temple.”

The Apanna Pradeepan Brahmin Seva Sangham state general secretary Ayyappa Sarma said many marriage parties are having their own Purohits and the temple authorities “need not give any recognition to them.”

He alleged that the EO was involved in many scams and now he opened another scam in the name of “auctioning of Purohits.”

The Brahmin associations said, “The decision of the temple trust board means an auctioning of the Vedas. If this is not stopped here, this virus will spread to other temples also.”

Bhogi Ganapathi Peetham founder Dusarlapudi Ramanaraju requested the government to stall the move of the temple authorities. “It would become difficult for priests to perform marriages as desired by the devotees.”

He wrote a letter to chief minister Jagan Reddy, saying that, already, the temple authorities are not allowing meals from other places to be brought to Ratnagiri hills and now curbs have been imposed on Purohit in the conduct of marriages.

Annavaram Purohit Sangham general secretary Ravi Sarma said he opposed the issue of tenders for auctioning of Purohit contractors, for non-Brahmins. The EO assured them that only a Brahmin contractor would get the tender to allot priests for marriages and that a fee would be fixed for the Purohits as decided by the temple.

Executive officer Chandrasekhar Azad said a media release that the mediators are making deals with marriage parties vis-à-vis selection of purohits, conduct of music, decoration, meals etc and looting them. The temple authorities wanted to stop this, he said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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