It is a shame that those who work in Hindu temples are paid less than a pittance by the Government of Tamil Nadu,through the HR&CE Department. There are different classes of workers in Hindu temples. In this article, I am addressing the issue of Odhuvars,Singers of Tamil Bhakthi literature,namely Thevaram,Thiruvasakam and Thirumurais.The Odhuvars are Saivites and they sing Hymns in praise of Sri. Shiva and Devi in Temples. These songs are the equivalent of Sanskrit slokas and stotras.Odhuvars belong a community who are dedicated to the singing of Thevaram, Thiruvasakam and other Saivite religious Hymns.Mainly, the Hymns are by the four great Tamil Saivite Devotees,Appar,Sambandar,Sundarar and Manikkavasakar. In Subrahmanya temples, Hymns by Arunagirinathar’s Thiruppugazh is sung.
The Odhuvars were a respected community and were given lands and produce by the Tamil Kings from the great Karikal Chozhan times.Pandya and Chera kings also gave Odhuvars grants. These grants were called Iraili in general. This includes lands granted to various workers in temples.Temple inscriptions in Tamil Nadu record this, including the ones at Thanjavur Big Temple built by Raraja Chozhan and also in other temples.
To the present position of Odhuvars…Read below.
‘The ‘odhuvars’ in temples joined the government service in 1980 with a pay-scale of Rs 175 and two cups of rice, the judge noted. “Their recitals fill the hearts of devotees and so their services are an integral part of temple administration,” the judge remarked.
The judge was passing orders on a writ petition from Singaravelan of a traditional odhuvar family. He has been working as an odhuvar in Sri Ilanjikumarar temple in Tenkasi, since January 3, 1980. Though he had put in 37 years of service, his services had neither been regularised nor had he been given increments. In 2004, the government fixed salary for staff of temples including odhuvars at Rs 2000-Rs 3200. The order came into force on June 4, 2004 giving effect from July 1, 1997. But despite claims and remainders, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department failed to revise his pay as per the GO.Subsequently in 2010, the salary of odhuvars was revised and re-fixed as Rs 3,300-9,000. However, no benefits was given to the petitioner even by virtue of the order, prompting Singaravelan to approach the court.
The HR&CE department submitted that the post of odhuvar is not a full-time job like other employees.
This court places its strong opinion in this regard, observing that the service rendered by the odhuvars cannot be measured with the aid of clock, the judge added and directed the department to pass appropriate orders on the plea within six weeks and disposed of the petition. Am yet to know the current status. Readers may inform.