It is infact unfortunate that the temples in India are facing massive crisis under the hands of government authorities. It is estimated that India houses over 6,00,000 temples. Some of these temples have existed since centuries and even thousands of years which have carried the heritage of Indian culture and the deep-rooted belief of Sanatana Dharma.
But India faced foreign attack for nearly 1000 years since the 11th century who nearly destroyed our culture, tradition and the core values of Hinduism. Thousands of temples which were built with historic importance were destroyed, vandalized and ultimately the history was lost as time passed. Generations were misled with fake stories and misinformation which made people believe that India had nothing of its own. The religious place in India were not just a place of worship, but a symbol of knowledge, wealth and culture of our religion.
But in the hands of British and Mughals, most of the temples were looted and destroyed to an extent that they no longer retained the sanctity and importance they once possessed. But unfortunately, even after independence, our leaders failed to restore back the glory of these temples. Even today the Kashi Vishwanath temple is located in a different place than it was originally located, the Ram temple in Ayodhya remains destroyed even today. But most of the governments which came to power were mostly interested in the looting the wealth of the temples.
Since past 20 years, there has been a sinister plan by many governments to take over temples under their control which is like Golden eggs to the politicians. Most of the state governments made it a rule that all Hindu temples should be under the ambit of Government. Then started the dark days for temples where the developmental activity came to a halt and crores of money donated to temples were diverted into undisclosed sources.
The priests who received regular salary stopped getting money after the government took over. Many priests who had dedicated their entire life learning the rituals of the pooja and Sanskrit literally lost livelihood and had to beg for money to run their families. The temple money which was used for developmental activities was diverted to different sources by the government and ultimately the temples were neglected. It is said that the government reduced the salary amount to less than Rs 5000/- a month. And this was the salary amount for ‘A’ grade temples. The lower grade temple priests received a mere Rs 500-1000/ month which made their conditions pathetic.
After several requests, the priests in the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, started getting a salary of Rs.12,500/month. Many of the priests in temples have to leave their family and live a disciplined life for several months while they perform special poojas. But these issues were completely neglected by all governments.
The other important aspect is, most of the temples in India have Goushalas, education centres where they teach Sanskrit and other Pooja rituals free of cost. Almost all temples give free food twice a day and also supply a huge amount of food to government schools and orphanages. The money for all this is utilized from the donations made by devotees. But the government has cut all funds for these activities which has resulted in abandoning the GouShalas and Gurukuls of the Temple.
A recent example is how the EX-CM of Karnataka Siddaramaiah stopped giving food to a School in Kaladka from Kollur Mookambika Temple and betraying nearly 2000 poor children. An RTI application filed last year to know the amount received by many temples in Karnataka showed that 90% of the temple funds were totally unused and disappeared without a race in government offices.
In the year, 2014-15 the income to the temple was Rs 31,21,24,946 (Thirty-one crores, twenty one lakh, twenty-four thousand, nine hundred and forty-six), but the amount spent on development by the government was 68,510.
An estimated 50,000 temples have shut down during the last five years in Karnataka due to lack of resources. It has been said that many of the temples even found it difficult to buy oil for lighting lamps in the temple’s premises.
But this is not the worst, the politicians have indulged in mass looting of temple idols, ancient scripts, artifacts which were once housed in temples. The biggest example is how the hundreds of year old jewels in Tirupati have gone missing from the TTD lockers which were said to be gifted by the Vijayanagar King Sri Krishna Deveraya and Mysore Kings. The temple priest has come out in open and exposed the TTD and the Chandrababu Naidu government blaming them for the massive loot and corruption in Tirupati temple. The jewels and ancient artifacts are said to have stolen from the temple and sold to thousands of crores abroad.
It can be well remembered how the previous CM of AP, Y. Samuel Rajsekar Reddy, in March 2006 demolished the centuries-old, 1000 pillar Mantapam in the Tirumala complex. The priests in the temple had alleged that the government had allocated Rs. 7.6 crores of TTD money towards repairs and renovations of mosques and churches in recent years. JRG Wealth Management Limited, a Christian owned organization, was given the contract to procure materials for the Prasadam that is given to temple devotees. In fact on one occasion, Shri Y Samuel Rajshekhar Reddy, the then Chief Minister announced the sponsorship, using TTD money, of a hockey tournament in his parents’ name. The present government in Andhra also tried to appoint a Christian member into TTD board to infiltrate the temple with Christians.
The Guruvayur temple in Kerala also saw same fate, where more than 24 crores of temple money was spent on building 40 Churches and Mosques in the surrounding place. In Tamil Nadu, the Madurai Meenakshi temple premises has been lent out to shopkeepers and businessman who are eventually occupying the temple land and are refusing to give back.
The power for the government to take over Temples came after THE HINDU RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS AND CHARITABLE ENDOWMENTS ACT, 1997 was passed in Karnataka. This act gave the government full power to take over the temple administration, appointing priests and trustees to the board and manage the fund received. In 2012 the Tamil Nadu government proposed amendments to a 1959 act governing temples seeking to bring ‘samadhis’ and ‘brindavans’ under its ambit for effective control.” because “(these) samadhis and brindavan..are being worshipped as a place of public religious institution..and..own vast property..(these) are not being controlled effectively”.
After temples, the Congress government in Karnataka had planned to take over the Hindu Mutts which was widely criticized. These Mutts are another source of income which the shameless Congress government was eyeing.
But the same government did not bother to take control over any Mosques or Churches which also receive enormous funds from International organisations. Why?? The only reason was the minority appeasement. The government never wanted to upset the minority community, but had no problem looting Hindu wealth and divert them to appease Muslims and Christians.
There should be a clear rule that no amount of temple wealth is diverted to other religious institutions or private entities. The funds collected by the temple will have to be used only for temple development, maintaining the temple properties and salaries for those who work for the temple.
The central government will have to intervene immediately to stop this corruption and loot which is happening since decades and save the century-old temples from shutting down. If not, India will lose one the most important tradition of our country in the dirty political game.