For inheritance of temple priesthood, line of succession must be traced through paternal lineage: Karnataka High Court

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The Karnataka High Court recently ruled that in order to assert a claim to inheritance of a temple’s priesthood, the line of succession must be traced through the paternal lineage rather than the maternal one [Ravi Dixit and Anr. vs The State of Karnataka and Ors.].

Justice NS Sanjay Gowda passed the order on a plea by two brothers, MS Ravi Dixit and MS Venkatesh Dixit who sought appointment as priests (archaks) at Sri Mahabaleshwaraswamy Temple at KR Puram, Bengaluru.

Earlier, Dixit had approached the Court seeking a direction that he be appointed as the priest at the temple. The plea was disposed of by the Court with directions to the concerned authorities to decide his representation in accordance with law.

The authority then passed an order rejecting the representation on the ground that there was no document to indicate that the petitioner’s previous three generations were discharging functions of the temple’s priest.

The authority had further clarified that since the priesthood was only traceable on the petitioner’s maternal side, he would not be entitled to claim hereditary priesthood.

The petitioners the moved the High Court challenging this orderthrough advocate Narayana Sharma.

They contended that they were not granted adequate opportunity to establish that their priesthood was hereditary and that they were entitled to be appointed as priests.

They stated that their father was appointed as priest after their maternal grandfather and therefore, they were entitled to the same.

On the other hand, Additional Government Advocate DS Shivananda told the Court that since the priesthood of the temple was traced back to the petitioners’ maternal side, they could not be considered for appointment as priests.

The Court first noted that the order under challenge revealed that the petitioners were heard.

On the merits, the Court said that in order to substantiate a claim of hereditary priesthood, it was imperative for the petitioners’ ancestors, up to their paternal great-grandfather, to have held the position of priest in the temple.

“It is not in dispute that in order to claim hereditary archakship, it would be necessary that not only father of the petitioners, but also their grandfather and great grandfather should have performed the role of archaks in Sri Mahabaleshwaraswamy Temple,” the Court said.

Since only the petitioners’ father had performed the priest’s role, the Court ruled that they could not claim hereditary priesthood and as a result, dismissed the plea.

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