It was once a place where Sanskrit ‘slokas’ and verses from Panniru Thirumurai (a 12-volume compendium of hymns in praise of Lord Shiva) were recited. Today, the walls of the two-storey building at Dhanappa Mudali Street here reverberate with the noise of kitchen vessels and the loud snores of contract labourers engaged for civil works at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple.
The building, which previously housed one of the six institutes established across the State by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department in 2007 to train Hindu youth, irrespective of their caste, to become priests, is currently used as accommodation for construction labourers. The six institutes have become defunct after the first batch passed out in 2008.
Madurai-based Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Sangam, an association of Saivite priests, had filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging the move to open the priesthood to all castes. The result was that the 206 youngsters, part of the first batch of students trained at the government-run institutes, have been left in the lurch without employment opportunities in view of the case pending in the apex court.
T. Marichamy, 29, gave up his job as a studio photographer and joined the training course in 2007, in the hope of becoming a priest in a popular temple. The son of a mason, he studied up to Standard XII before taking up photography as a profession. His interest in performing religious rituals had made him join the priest training institute.