Freeing Hindu temples from Government control – A Start is made

The seminar hopes to kick-start the movement of freeing temples from government control.

While the topic of the seminar was Autonomy of Temples and it brought out rich and deep facets of the manner in which temples are managed in India , what the Namma Devasthana event, which was held in Bangalore on 20 June, did was make people, especially Hindus, introspect on their relationship with their own temples and how it has changed over time.

Held under the aegis of Namma Devasthana, Dharmic Action, Temple Worshippers’ Society, Jijnaasa and India Facts as the media partner, historical data on temples, their functioning (or the lack of it), maintenance and the laws as laid out by the Constitution of India were presented in this seminar. Last, but not the least, the state of the Archakas were highlighted in great detail in a bid to sensitise Hindus towards their own temples.

Padmashree Dr VR Gowrishankar of the Shringeri Mutt, author and columnist Prof M D Srinivas, Advocate Kiran Bettadapur, Archak CS Rangarajan  of Chilkur Balaji Devasthanam, Smt Vijalylaksmi, who is working towards cultural rejuvenation of temples through Gudiya Sambrahma, Chakravarthi Sulibele, who is working on the rejuvenation of Kalyanis and Shivkaumar who gave insights on the effective use of RTI,  presented their views in this seminar on freeing Hindu Temples. Dr Mohandas Pai made a last minute pleasant entry and presented his views as well.

Equality, a sham

All the speakers spoke of the Constitution which in letter and spirit says that India will treat all its religions equally. However, in reality, the Government has been targeting only Hindu temples for takeover to bring about “better management,” while it conveniently leaves out mosques, gurudwaras and churches implying that no mismanagement occurs there.

Even the massive revenue of Hindu temples goes to a common pool of funds of the state. So, a donation made by a devout Hindu to propagate his/her faith goes for a totally different purpose. The speakers asked pertinent questions like:

  • Does any of the temple revenue go into running Vedic classes?
  • Are Archakas taken care the way they need to?
  • Why do some babus get to decide how much an archaka should earn?
  • Why should people from other faiths be on boards of Hindu temple trusts?
  • Will a Hindu ever be part of a Waqf Board?

All the issues pertaining to Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution were discussed in great detail. The sham of  the Temple Trusts too was highlighted and the speakers said that a babu who sits in a temple office for half the time an archaka stays, earns almost double and sometimes even three times the archaka’s salary. The archaka is often in the temple from 6 am to 9 pm. What kind of equality is this and how is this not mismanagement?

Time for action

Dr VR Gowrishankar urged people to break the shackles of mental slavery and think on their own. He also asked people to think about why our forefathers built temples in the first place and has that objective changed over time?

Speaking of this very change, Smt Vijaylakshmi in her talk said that the temples earlier were host to a variety of activities – from the performing arts to classical dance, to running Veda Patshalas and hospitals, to having Nandanvans, Goshalas and Kalyanis around the temple. All these were active parts of the temple ecosystem. Sadly, today, all this has vanished and all that remains is just the rituals and a temple solves only that purpose.

However, instead of just speaking about this fall, she decided to do something and with like-minded individuals, she conducts the annual Gudiya Sambrama, which has theme-based cultural programmes, performed by artists from all over India in temples in Bangalore. This  is an attempt to bring about cultural rejuvenation in temples and also move away from the “sabha” audience which in her view do not watch cultural programmes with a heart. In contrast, at Gudiya Sambhrama, people from across different strata and age groups enjoy these performances and also get educated in the  process.

Advocate Kiran, in slideshow, presented the pathetic state of temples run by Government which not only are destroying their aesthetic beauty, but also wondered if care is taken of the main structure of the temples when temples are “lit up” for tourism. Speaking about the manner in which temples are run, he said the number of people on the board to the number of temples they have to manage is a ratio that is so skewed that management can be anything but efficient. This IIT Kharagpur alumni, entrepreneur, and member of the Bar Council of India said that the RTIs filed on the issue are often not replied to.

Dr Mohandas Pai stressed on the need to speak out bravely even at the risk of being branded communal. He said there is a need to separate the State from religion and not people from religion, adding that every effort must be made to remove any sort of discrimination in Hinduism.

Glorious Past

Speaking about the glorious past of our temples, the speakers spoke of how Kings of yore, who built temples almost always refrained from interfering in the day to day affairs of the temple except in times of dispute, when the King would settle it.

Prof MD Srinivas, author and columnist, highlighted this saying that this ensured that the temple ecosystem functioned in its true spirit. However, when the British came in, they reversed this in such a manner that the daily matters of the temple were overseen by the British and disputes were handled by the courts. This meant long drawn disputes, and temples not functioning in an efficient manner.

In fact, the very people who lecture us on discrimination forget to mention that Adi Shankara was instrumental in integrating different parts of India through a Dharmic thread when he appointed priests from all over India to look after temples. So a priest from Saurashtra stays at Rameshwaram, the Kerala Namboodris at Badrinath and those from Dakshina Kannada at Pashupati Nath in Nepal. Doesn’t this speak of unity?

Smt Vijaylaksmi also said the Devdasis who would dance in temples were unfairly branded as “nautch girls” by the British because they were not used to seeing such liberalness in their society – a woman dancing freely in an open temple. And sadly, instead of preserving this rich tradition, our own people today have internalized this British bias and branding.

The seminar hopes to kick-start the movement of freeing temples from government control. More importantly, it also stressed the need to free our thought process from ages of mental slavery. Earlier, outsiders inflicted their thought process on us, and now the “secular” insiders are doing it. It’s time Hindus woke up to defend their temples and take them back in their own hands.

IndiaFacts Staff articles, reports and guest pieces
  • Pingback: Temples and the State in India: A Historical Overview | Tamilbrahmins()

  • Dr. MS

    Here are four letters from readers on an article on civility, or lack of civility, in the work place. Private sector is mentioned often. Maybe it is an American corporate or capitalist problem. I do not know…but read on…

    JEB from Austin, TX (to NYT article on research on lack of civility in the work place and its impact on health).

    I have, fortunately as far as I am concerned, never worked for a private corporation; I have worked for either universities or nonprofits all of my life. And while it is true that within universities there can be intense academic rivalries, instances of rudeness and abuse are rare. But everyone I know who works for private corporations has told me, many times, of abusive behavior in the workplace, and such behavior generally occurs with impunity, especially if a company is making money. An executive who harasses his employees will often be ignored as long as he is bringing in a profit. Many will disagree, but I think that this abuse is embedded within the nature of most American businesses; after all, their sole reason for being is the profit motive, and when profit matters above all, personal behavior is far less important. American rudeness is very much a function of American capitalism. It is characteristic of the Republican party, the party of corporate business. It astonishes me that so many Americans think that businesses are more efficient than government, because most employees in most businesses spend a large part of their time complaining about the poor conditions at their work.

    ResWY Laramie, WY
    I work in an exceptionally civil (and from the comments seemingly rare) environment. It is not a corporation or private industry.

    People’s ideas are evaluated on their merit; everyone listens while others are speaking; I am thrilled by others’ successes and believe that others are likewise pleased by my success etc.

    I believe this stems from the fact that everyone has some reasonable level of self-confidence, that is, it would never occur to me (us) to beat others down to feel good about ourselves. In fact, I think we all hope that the next person hired is the next “best” person, i.e., someone smarter than the existing employees as this will advance our dept and institution!

    I am a female prof in a STEM discipline in academia, for what it’s worth.

    Armanda Baltimore
    I think that American workers not having, or not taking – when available – time off to rest, relax and engage in other pursuits, will take a toll on their health and in their own attitude at work. A diverse work environment also helps, especially in a workplace where cliques are formed (damaging the potential for openness, inclusiveness and cooperation on the job). Regarding bosses: in the past I have experienced uncivil, even malicious behavior from bosses who were so entrenched, that nothing could be done to resolve situations, or…. relieve them of employment.This is especially so in private companies and corporations.

    Richard Peekskill, NY

    After working almost 30 years in corporate America, I believe it is mainly socioaths and psychopaths who make it to the top management positions. It’s not a question of time, it’s the behavior rewarded by American business. Somehow they think such qualities are necessary for success.

    I surely hope some read this article as to the effects such behavior have on people. I’m very competent in my field, but no longer wish to work in it after a string of extremely toxic managers or bosses in the private sector. Hoping now to start my own business. I think this is why the US is no longer a top country. The ultimate in dysfunction. I look at the books addressing what makes a good business leader or manager, and laugh. Those writing these books are so out of touch with the dismal state of management in corporate America and the bullies who are running it. Such books will not change those who run the workplace.

    Mmmm…private and public needs to be defined on “competencies and satisfaction all around”….not “just” mrtr private or public.

  • Dr. MS

    It works both ways. There are government universities, called public universities, that are excellent in education and research. There are private colleges that just give out degrees for money and for connections. There are government run universities that are run by political hacks, and nobody gets fired even when they do not show up for work for twenty years. There are private colleges that are excellent and are productive. The problem is not “government” or “private”: it is lack of the right values, lack of respect for the goals and processes, lack of training or competency, lack of honesty or transparency or accountability or all three…and lack of commitment to institutional success and development.

    In India there are problems on both sides.

    It is not too much government or no government…it is having an ethical relevant competent government.

    It is not private enterprise or trustee run business size….it is ethical relevant competent leaders and managers.

    India is lacking on both sides.

    There are government programs and politicians who do not give a hoot for what they manage, or are expected to manage. And there are also trustees, private companies or corporate run programs that lack values and sincerity that they actually loot. One does not care a hoot, the other loots. In India take your pick.

  • Vikram

    We can take the temples back from Government control. It is possible. All we need is good leadership. Unfortunately, courage and sacrifice is not found among Hindu leaders.

  • Prit Dutta

    This initiative has to start. We need Global Mandir Prabandan Committee. Priest should be employee, give these jobs to our dalits as well. Use the money to serve poor and spreading the Hindu values. Churches have investments in Fund Managers, multiplying their income, its all business for them by opening more churches by taking government benefits.

  • Sharan Sharma

    Kudos for organizing this!

  • Rohit Raj

    Thank god, this is a very sweet news.

  • Seel

    This is a change long overdue; De link the State from temples. States run by very communally minded politicians have no role in the Hindu worship. In USA, may temples are run by Trusts with greedy trustees to pivot into politics, trustees also treat priests without respect and whole goal is about raising money and making the endowment big.

  • Bala N.

    When freeing the temples and giving to private control, sometimes the question will become Private Who? So, the best solution will be to create an autonomous National body electing / appointing only true Hindus [not politicians] and have autonomous local bodies [like Universities] that will control. Then, they also need to form a Devotees forum in each temple. Otherwise, some private groups of politicians will hold the power and loot the temples.

  • cool

    And also free Hindu temples from Muslims control

    Partial List of Mosques in various states in India , which were built after demolishing Hindu temples

  • Sambit

    Modi govt shouldn’t shy away from a much needed reform to prove its ‘secular’ credentials…if it doesn’t act it will lose hindu votes and hindu trust.

  • ankesh srivastava

    Time to revive what is willfully ours, a free enterprise will more likely help in propogation of our cultural and spritual values as well monetraily cater needs of poor fraction.

    Time for an another struggle.