Mala Jayakumar is one of four female priests entrusted with conducting religious rituals at the Hindu Saivanerikoodam temple association in Bern. swissinfo.ch followed her in her preparations for a Friday ceremony. (Michele Andina, swissinfo.ch)
The Hindu temple in the Swiss capital Bern is one of the few in the world that allows women priests to officiate religious ceremonies. It's also a first in the Swiss Hindu community.
The idea of ordaining women priests in Bern came about as a result of interactions with curious non-Hindu visitors to the multi-faith House of Religions.
Mala Jayakumar leads the weekly ceremonial worship of the Saivanerikoodam Hindu temple’s principal deity Shiva. Jayakumar and three other women priests have been trained and ordained to perform the religious rituals that are usually the preserve of men.
Few outsiders know about the colourful temple hidden behind the glass-façade of the very modern-looking House of Religions in Bern. The local Hindu community gathers there to pray and seek blessings from Shiva and other gods and goddesses that are such an integral part of their devotions.