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The Madras High Court today asked the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board officials to fix the salary of 'Othuvars' (persons who recite ancient Tamil hymns in temples), on par with the government employees as it rejected the contention that they were not full-time workers. Disposing of a petition filed by Singavelan, Othuvar of Sri Elanji Kumarar temple in Tirunelveli district, Justice R Mahadevan said the service of the Othuvars should not be measured with the aid of clock. "Simply because the Othuvars recite hymns for two hours or three hours, officials cannot make them shed tears for their salary," the Juge said in his order. An analysis of their service would reveal their deep and unimaginable knowledge of Tamil literature and language. Their singing energise the Human mind who come to the temple to get rid off their agonies, he said. The judge rejected the contention of the Joint Commissioner of HR and CE, which administers a large number of temples in the state, that 'Othuvars' in the temple were not a full time workers and recited the hymns only during two or three 'kala poojas' out of six poojas daily. Tracing existence of othuvars since 9th century AD, the Judge said Chola king Rajaraja Cholan appointed 48 persons to recite 'Thirupathigam' along with musical instruments.
Vijayanagar kingdom's Krishnadeva Rayar also appointed othuvars in 1517. The significance of the othuvars was prominent for centuries and it was painful now the government was making them run from pillar to post. Despite several G. Os, the government had not implemented the salary fixation for the othuvars. The Judge also rejected the argument that funds were not available with temples for paying the Othuvars.
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