Tuesday, July 16, 2024
HomeOpinionsFreedom of temples from Govt- Pros and cons

Freedom of temples from Govt- Pros and cons

Also Read

G Indira
G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Ex-Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer

For quite some time, it has been a movement from Hindu organizations to free temples from the Government management. The BJP in its election manifesto in Tamil Nadu stated that the party would ensure the administration of temples to be handed over to a separate board comprising Hindu scholars and saints. The party is right in saying so, for it has been a persisting question from average Hindus—why should a “secular” government control Hindu-temples alone, when minority religious places like mosques and churches are left free? Certainly, a valid question.

If we analyze dispassionately on the subject, there are pros and cons to it. On the pros-side: the Government at the Centre, as a matter of policy: less government and more governance, may relieve itself from temples-management, if a suitable private Hindu body is found to look after. Right now, the government is on privatization spree of:  airlines, airports, industry, mining, trade etc., In the similar fashion, it could move away from controlling temple-affairs. So, there may not be much of a problem. As a top-down measure the Centre could legislate.

The strength for the argument: ‘freedom to run Hindus temples by Hindu religious bodies’, arises out of Tamil Nadu state, as it is the textbook case for the neglect of temples by the respective state-governments for a long time.  The state Tamil Nadu has a rich cultural heritage of temples. Successive secular governments in the state have not protected those temples and the artifacts in it. They let temples to dilapidate under their own watch and allowed all type of goons to loot the idols, sculpture present in them to be taken to their use and to foreign lands for sale. Their gross neglect and ignorance of Hindu religious sites, is pathetic. So, Hindus asking for recourse to take them back in their hands, is legitimate.

Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh temples used to have acres of land donated by kings and rich devotees for their maintenance. Like any secular institution, a temple also needs money. It is meant for cleaning, for decoration of the idol and for lighting daily lamps/aarti and Prasadam i.e., food offered to God, that’s in turn distributed to devotees. Keeping all this in view, the donors donated their property to the residing deity. All this is done out of devotion. By selling this land to non-devotees at throwaway cost by the Endowment Department is diluting the intent and purpose for the cause for which they were given. Many temples were left with no property to sustain, as their land was illegitimately grabbed. Hindus could not raise their voice against these affairs all along. As the condition of temples has been deteriorated drastically, there is a kind of awakening among Hindus now. They are raising doubts on their present offering to God in the form cash or kind, is being properly utilised by the endowments departments.

On the Cons-side:

In the hands of the Government—-if temples were not maintained properly, if temple money was misused by the government, people got every to question the government—they could also seek for more transparency—they could also demand for more facilities in the precincts of the temples, since the government is formed by elected representatives of the people. Its (the government’s) continuance depends much on people. Can the same be done with the holy-bodies/boards, under whose watch temples be left, after freeing from the government? Assume, one or two generations could be accountable, later won’t the corruption seep-in? Where are the checks and balances? Again, the government has to come into picture. Or the courts.

Interestingly, an ex- Executive Officer of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Board has given a clear picture in his meet- https://youtu.be/TDnzo7a1z_4 , as to how Balaji-temple of Tirupati is run. For the services of Lord Sri Venkateshwara—the deity presiding—there are many Hindus from all castes that participate. Conventionally, they and their families have been doing these services from ages to Lord Balaji: as musicians-singing, as dancers- dancing, as cowherd- getting milk to temple, as shepherd rearing goat/cows, as florists that grow flowers and make garlands to the idol of Balaji, as folk artistes singing/dancing to folk songs, as truck-drivers getting loads of flowers and fruits etc., They are all from lower wrung in the Hindu society.

In the same way, there are potters that make pots and get water for Lord Balaji regularly. For all services: cleaning, cooking, distribution of sanctified sacred food, for decoration and other such services, many people other than brahmins are involved. What happens to these families which depend on temples for livelihood? Not only Brahmins but there are several castes that make glory of these famous temples. They should not be marginalized or lose their ‘pride of place’ in the new dispensation.  Since the governments are bound by the principle of equality, they maintain this caste-balance. Brahmins, specially of orthodox-variety, if they are at the helm of temple affairs, may not allow these practices to continue unhindered. They dig deeper into so-called Agama-Sastras for allowance/non-allowance of these practices. Even if, one or two are kind enough, others are not. We cannot vouch for the entire community.

In any case, among the Brahmin pundits’ statements/shastra-interpretations, there are many contradictions. Shaivites say something and Vaishnavites say the other. Who would be the arbitrator for both, if the government moves away? In fact, the government is happy to give away temples to Hindus because it is a huge burden on them to manage. It can rather be free. But the Hindus have to come out with a frame-work, as to how they manage their temple-affairs before taking over. Otherwise, they would be landing up all their disputes in secular- Courts to settle. After all, the hostile British Government too ensured all its colonies to write their own written-Constitutions (on how they govern themselves), before leaving/giving independence. To relieve temple from Government, without an agreeable plan in place would lead to chaos in the Hindu-society at large. So, the movement for the freedom of temples should have clear picture/road-map to manage temples.

  Support Us  

OpIndia is not rich like the mainstream media. Even a small contribution by you will help us keep running. Consider making a voluntary payment.

Trending now

G Indira
G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Ex-Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer
- Advertisement -

Latest News

Recently Popular