Hindu Temples have a Role in Stifling Societal Change: Newslaundry

Assertion: In an article that examines Narendra Modi and Jairam Ramesh’s temples and toilets statements, Ranjan Crasta at Newslaundry makes the following assertion:

…temples have long played a role in stifling societal change as evidenced by the aversion of a temple in Orissa to Dalits until 2006, as well as numerous cases of women not being allowed to enter certain temples due to their committing the cardinal sin of hitting puberty. Also, since temples do not pay taxes, they play little to no part in contributing to the country’s economic growth.


Crasta’s strong statement of Hindu temples stifling societal change is borne out by absolutely no evidence apart from stating that an Orissa temple did not allow Dalits, and two, women not being allowed into certain temples because of “ommitting the cardinal sin of hitting puberty.”

This is certainly not evidence enough to make what is a very strong statement about the institution of Hindu temples which have been in existence for more than a thousand years. Neither is anybody condoning the discriminatory act of some temples not allowing entry to Dalits. However, that in itself is not evidence for the fact that Hindu temples stifled societal change.

Perhaps Crasta is ignorant of the law that punishes any discrimination against Hindus of any caste from entering temples. Indeed, this punishment has already been meted out to several people since that law came into force. Additionally, one wonders why Ranjan Crasta ignored the fact that today there exist hundreds if not thousands of Dalits and other backward caste priests, fully qualified to perform pujas and other rituals in temples. Indeed, the same Narendra Modi whose name Crasta invokes, mooted a proposal in February 2013 to impart training in priesthood to Dalits “to become priests, and perform marriages and ‘puja’ in temples.”

Indeed, Crasta’s other point that some temples disallow women (because they menstruate) also reflects the same level of ignorance. Hinduism has hundreds of sects, sub-sects, customs and traditions that have evolved over centuries. There’s no one size-fits-all custom or rule. Famous temples like the Ayyapa temple at Sabarimala have evolved their own set of local customs and rules, and all Hindu Dharmashastras are united in their assertion that local customs and laws always take precedence. This is not unlike how the County laws take the first precedence in the US. And a Hindu temple is not a secular institution. It is meant for a specific purpose and fulfills a certain need. More importantly, none of these temples force anybody to visit them. And if the devotees do visit them, it is their duty to abide by the customs and rules of that temple. Additionally, there are also temples which forbid men from entering them, there is a temple in Rajasthan where female devotees have the first right to worship Krishna….one can cite numerous such references. Indeed, if anybody has the right to object to these customs and traditions, it is the followers of those customs and traditions, and not a non-adherent like Ranjan Crasta.

Equally, Crasta’s other assertion that because temples don’t pay tax, they “play little or no they play little to no part in contributing to the country’s economic growth,” is also ignorant and false. Since antiquity, temples have indeed been the harbingers, and agents of not just societal change but have given birth to and nurtured entire economic systems apart from contributing to excellence in art, culture and other refined aspects of a civilization. Even today, the existence of what are known as temple towns–throughout the country–is itself proof of the falsity of Ranjan Crasta’s claim. A more elaborate exposition of the function, role, and contribution of Hindu temples can be found here, something that also shows why Crasta’s statement is ill-informed.

This apart, it is not just temples that are exempt from tax, but mosques and churches too. The law governing religious places grants exemption to what it defines as “deities.” One wonders why Crasta has left these out. Even further, Crasta also conceals the fact that this tax exemption is granted only to temples which are governed by private trusts, and the revenue of Hindu temples under Government control accrue entirely to the State’s coffers. However, this does not apply to religious places owned by minority communities. Intellectual honesty requires Ranjan Crasta to write the complete truth. 


It is quite clear from the above that Ranjan Crasta has made a sweeping statement about Hindu temples, a statement that is ignorant, partial, and borders on slander. It is surprising why Crasta couldn’t find a single positive fact to state about Hindu temples. Worse, he uses one aberration–denial of temple entry to Dalits–to cast aspersions against a hoary institution of Hindus, which continues to do a great amount of good to the society and country.

It is therefore quite clear that Ranjan Crasta’s assertions, rooted in ignorance and based on selective interpretation of facts, is unequivocally, entirely, and absolutely False.

(Ranjan Crasta’s picture source: Newslaundry)

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  • randomreader@mailinator.com'
    October 10, 2013


    Granted that the author (Crasta) made sweeping statements based on a biased set of anecdotes, and it might very well be that the assertions are not justified, or even blatantly false. But to say that he has no right to object to these customs is taking it way too far !

    Surely, a religious institution are at liberty to ignore any objections made by non-adherents by saying that its a matter between the institution and its adherents. But to say that non-adherents don’t have the right to comment on it, is to take a small step towards Saudi Arabia…

    Local laws taking precedence, is too weak an arguement when it comes to matters that are of broader interest or impact. By that reasoning, a panchayat can decide to isolate/banish/hurt say, inter-caste couples or dalits on the pretext of their (limited) understanding of caste and their perceived transgressions.

    Seeing the site for the first time. The “Fact meter” !!! Why these silly bells and whistles ? Do things have to go so low for people to follow/remember a point being made ?

  • avadhaniganesh@gmail.com'
    October 7, 2013

    ganesh R.

    In fact the great Jagannatha Temple at Puri has many aadivaasi-priests who are specially recognized as dayita-s, the most beloved section of people to the Lord and they play a very important role in many rituals of the temple tradition. Like wise they are many ancient temple so India where quite a large number of people belonging to the so called class of the “oppressed” are happily taking care of the temple worships and they are many more traditional temples that specially subscribe to the involvement of dalits and other so called marginalized Hindu-s for many special ritual and festivals. People who care to understand the true temple traditions can unfailingly notice these things.

  • rai.iitr@gmail.com'
    October 5, 2013


    It is also to be noted that this fellow had first claimed that it was Jagannath temple of Puri that did not allow Dalits in until an NDTV expose in 2011. And the link he provided did not refer to Jagannath temple at all. It was only when his lie was called out in the comments section that he chose to correct it.

  • rai.iitr@gmail.com'
    October 5, 2013


    I am most impressed, and also pleasantly surprised, by the promptness of Indiafacts in taking up this matter. Kudos to you! I have faith in your conviction. Great job people.

  • svenky11@twitter.example.com'

    This person also writes in the article “…The fact of the matter is that the oldest recorded inhabitation of the Indian subcontinent is the Indus Valley Civilisation…” He is not only ignorant of religion but also of Indian History. Is not Sangam literature, that Modi claims he is fond of, gives accounts of the civilization that dates back thousands of years before the IVC? There are researches to disprove early lies about the structures in Mohenjadaro to show that there was a thriving temple akin to the layout of Meenakshi Temple in Madurai and as per our own vastu shastra. This Macaulayputras purports lies and slander in the name of journalism. Probably the filth that News laundry proposes to clean is catching up on them.

  • ashishot123@gmail.com'
    October 5, 2013


    To those who are continuously itchy about the fact that women donot enter Sabarimala: Check out Aatukal pongala, a couple of hundred kilometeres from sabarimala.


    *This festival at Aatukal has been entered into the Guinness book of world records as the largest congregation of women in the world*
    *The ceremony is ‘exclusively confined to women folk’ and the enormous crowd, which gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbhamela Festival of North India.*

  • tennishrikant@gmail.com'
    October 5, 2013

    Shrikant Heerekar

    wtf is wrong with these dumbheads?? Newslaundry claims to “String them up, put them to dry, & ring them clean”. Madhu Trehan’s bias towards Narendra Modi and presence of Naxalite Abhinandan Sekhri very much rubs on the thinking of fellow colleagues and employees to trash Hindu symbolisms. I sometimes feel so helpless and angry that I can’t do much to expose these hypocrites.

  • veeranddeep@twitter.example.com'
    October 5, 2013

    VEER DEEP (@veeranddeep)

    one of the original concept of Mandir in Hinduism. Please refer Mr. Crasta.