For the first time in almost a millennium, Dalits in the northeastern district of Dolpa have gained entry into the famous Balatripurasundari Bhagwati temple. Local priests claim that the shrine was built before the year 1057. Dalits, a traditionally downtrodden community, belong to the lowest rung of the Hindu caste hierarchy and continue to face discrimination even though the country’s laws ban any form of caste-based discrimination.
Local Man Bahadur Sarki says that Dalits had failed to gain entry into the temple despite repeated efforts to do so. Although there is a Dalit settlement adjacent to the temple, never before had they been able to worship in it.
“It was a huge struggle to make it possible for Dalits to worship collectively in the temple,” says Lila Tamata of Ked, a local NGO.
Local Dalits are extremely happy about the change. “In a district where caste-based bigotry is rife, the change marks an important milestone in the movement towards Dalit emancipation,” says Kali Chalaune, chairperson of the district interparty women’s network.