The Temple Priests


Key points

Each temple will have its priest or even a whole team. They often come from the brahmana community. As well as performing the regular worship, (puja, the arti ceremony, etc.) they may conduct special ceremonies such as various rites of passage, both in the temple and at people's homes. Traditionally only men are allowed into the priesthood, though certain movements such as ISKCON also welcome women.

Within the UK, trained priests were originally brought in from India, but certain organisations and sampradayas now train their priests locally. They are expected to follow certain rules and regulations such as following a vegetarian diet, and abstaining from intoxication and gambling. Traditionally many priests were learned and hence called "pandit." They were expected to be knowledgeable in scripture and Sanskrit.

Two pujaris (priests) at a South Indian temple in Wembley. The main deity is Lord Shiva.

Some traditions allow women to enter the priesthood. Here an Indian lady at Bhaktivedanta Manor temple performs ritual bathing.

Most priests are brahmanas, whose other main function is education. Brahmanas are often called pandit, meaning "learned scholar." Here a western-born brahmana tells the story of Rama and Sita to schoolchildren.