T. Ramalinga Deekshitar
Priest at the Chidambaram Temple, Tamil Nadu

When we met him, 73-year-old T. Ramalinga Deekshitar was taking rest at his home, which is literally at the gate of the temple. The room was spare but for a cupboard that contained his books. A well-read man, he did his MA in Sanskrit and doctorate in the study of the 'Chidambaram Temple as recorded in Sanskrit literature'. Showing a copy of the doctoral thesis, he says, “Look at it and be worshipful”.
The only temple that still follows the hereditary tradition of appointing priests, Chidambaram is managed by the Deekshitar community. Ramalinga became a priest to continue the family tradition even if it meant turning down an offer to join Annamalai University as a lecturer.
But he does not regret the decision. Apart from performing rituals, Ramalinga makes money by giving radio talks. “While I am maintaining the tradition, people do cross the seven seas,” he says. “Purification is not the issue here. People go abroad for their own satisfaction.”
He has three sons who have followed in their father's footsteps and are fulfilling temple duties. “I am definitely a better man because of all the japams [repetition of mantras] that I do and the pujas that I perform,” says Ramalinga. “More than that, I am content.”


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