| The temple in Areraj where Ravi Shankar Giri is the chief priest. Pictures by RN Sinha |
A 23-year-old youth in Areraj is preparing for his final-year engineering examination next year while praying to Lord Shiva at the local temple.
He is not just any devotee in Areraj town, around 30km west of Motihari, but the chief priest of the temple. He is also the youngest priest the Shiva temple ever had.
Ravi Shankar Yati has turned Mahanth Ravi Shankar Giri since his uncle, the former priest of the Shiva temple, died in January this year. Priesthood was, however, not always on the priority list for Ravi.
A BTech student in Greater Noida Institute of Technology, Ravi had aimed to work with development projects. He was a fairly good student throughout his academic life. But tragedy struck the family when Mahanth Sheo Shankar Giri, Ravi’s uncle breathed his last earlier this year.
Ravi, along with his other family members in Uttar Pradesh, came to the town for the funeral and accompanying rituals. When the matter of the next chief priest came up, members of the temple management committee nominated Ravi to take up the mantle.
Members of his family, originally from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, have been priests at the Shiva temple. So, when the earlier priest died, the town looked to the next suitable candidate in the family.
“Like many others, I, too, nurtured certain dreams in my life. I could never think that priesthood would be my ultimate career. But after a prolonged struggle with myself, today, I am quite satisfied with my present status. It has at least offered me a chance to do something for society,” he told The Telegraph.
Ravi said after the funeral of his uncle, he returned to his institute. There, he sought permission to appear in the examination scheduled for May next year after preparing for it at home. The institute agreed and now, the 23-year-old priest studies for his finals in the free time he gets off his priestly duties.
He does not intend to let his engineering education to go to waste, as well. He said: “I will make maximum use of my technical skills in the development of this ancient temple of Lord Shiva. I have decided to make full use of my knowledge during my years as an engineering student towards fulfilling development projects as well as dreams of my deceased guru (his uncle), which could not be completed in his lifetime.”