Temples are living tradition of Hindu Dharma. They play an extraordinary role in protection, preservation and nurturing of Hindu culture. These sacred places of worship and living symbols of our legacy, culture & civilization that have survived centuries of a history soaked in bloodshed, invasions and plunder.
Having survived some of the most troubled times today these sacred places of worship are being preyed upon by a government that professes about not meddling in religious affairs of any community but that of the Hindu’s. Being strictly under government control, Hindu temples in Independent India are subjected a systematic loot by government officials and agencies that nobody seems to be able to stop.
Indian Government retains complete control over thousands of Hindu Temples and their properties after the enactment of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act in 1951. Every government since independence has been misusing this power conferred by enacting this law that permits the government controlled management committee to sell temple assets and properties and use the money in any way they choose.
To get a realistic picture of how an unwarranted Government control thrust upon temples is causing harm and damage to Hinduism in the country do read this :
1. Government takeovers have been a den of corruption, embezzlements and gross mismanagement of temple assets.
All offerings at controlled Hindu temples automatically become a property of the state and not the temple. Although nearly all states in India have set up separate management boards, but they just oversee and are not permitted to claim the funds.
2. Short of funds, thousands of temples have had to be closed down
Government control has forcibly dispossessed many temples of thousands of acres of land, property and other assets that have been grabbed by squatters and land grabbers. With the assets looted, many temples are without enough funds for their upkeep and have become relics of a past glory.
3. Vedic learning has been destroyed, particularly so in government controlled temples.
Aside from being the central point of Hindu community’s religious, social and cultural life, the temple through the ages was also a learning center where the teaching of Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Tirukkural was passed on from one generation of religious scholars to another.
Government control of temples has destroyed all Veda pathashala and the newer generations are not awareness about this rich heritage of the religion.
4. Cow gifting to temple Gaushala’s has been turned into dubious business that often feeds the beef industry
For Hindus, the cow is a holy animal and devotees do donate cow’s to temple Gaushala’s as part of their religious beliefs. Instead of using temple funds to maintain these gaushala’s (cow shelters) temples controlled by the government sell these animals to butchers and those who are in the beef industry.
5. Temples are rendered powerless to even beautify their immediate environs
Government control of Hindu temples have created powerful lobbies of vested interests who are not interested in having a neat and clean environment around these religious institutions. With lands, assets and management powers lying vested with the government, one will often come across open gutters, stray animal and load of garbage lying within the vicinity of sacred temple.
6. Poor upkeep has damaged priceless temple murals and paintings.
Bureaucratic control of temples has led to much damage to many religious paintings and mural reliefs. Many incidents have been reported where the ancient murals and paintings have carelessly been whitewashed; mandapams have been decimated and ancient walls have suffered sandblasts, causing valuable engravings to be completely destroyed.
7. Roots of Indian culture are dying as there is no support for music, dance, literature or art.
Beyond their religious importance, temples have been rich patrons of Indian music, dance, art and literature. With no power over the fund offerings made by Pilgrims at temples now, an important legacy of Hindu traditions in music, dance and other others is dying fast.
Having lost their connections with the past, most temples today only play recorded music over loudspeakers.
8. Government appointees on temple boards do not allow religious education.
People look up to our temples to nurture their kids with religious teachings and learnings that they are not able to teach them. Temple boards are failing in their duties to make obligations to impart religious education to all Hindu youth out of temple offerings.
9. Temple wells and reservoirs are in disuse today
Temple tanks called pushkarini, kalyani, kunda or talabs are sacred waters that are an integral part of many important temples. They not only symbolized ritual cleansing or about rites of sanctification but spread awareness about hygiene and cleanliness. Apathy of temple institutions have turned many of these holy temple tanks into disease breeding swamps that no organization wants to clean and maintain.
10. Government management committees are encouraging encroachment of temple spaces and assets
Temple spaces are being grabbed and the government agencies controlling these shrines are not stopping the loot but instead are actively conniving with many of the property grabbers to make a fast buck. At places the whole temple infrastructure has changed drastically as new structures are built and more shops and offices are opened in temple premises.
11. Government agencies even directly interfere in Religious Matters.
Religious seers don’t even have the freedom of deciding the mode of Puja ceremonies that can be performed at many important temples. From daily rituals to yearly celebrations, government agencies are directly involved in controlling the religious ceremonies of Hindus at these temples.
Privilege of arranging and worshipping as per temple tenets are tempered with and where and how a yagna is to held and which dialect is to be permitted are often decisions of government agencies managing these temples.
12. Government interference has overturned ancestral lineage of priesthoods.
By law, temples are supposed to run by Trustees. Many of these trusts have hereditary lines of priests on them who know and have protected these institutions for generations. Government functionaries have played intrigue in appointing their favourites to temple trusts. Moreover the Trustees have been made subservient to government appointed executive officers that effectively places control of the temple in the hands of a government servant or agency.
13. Poorly qualified priests appointed in place of learned priests.
This is big blow to Indian Vedic traditions as lesser learned priests are given powers over and above the qualified one on the grounds that they are under the state government control.
14. Vedic learning has no support from government or the temples they control
Western universities, especially those in Germany, United Kingdom and USA have shown great interest in knowing about vedic religion and studying its traditions but at the Hindu temples where these traditions were kept alive for thousands of years, under government guardianship have stopped this patronage that has destroyed this knowledge base.
With there being no patronage, temple priests are unable to pass on this accumulated knowledge to newer generations as there are hardly any new keen learners or teachers left.
15. Non-believers & communists are on governing bodies of Hindu temples.
The brutal suppression of Hinduism by government agencies is best exemplified by non-believers and communists being on management boards of many temple trusts. Government takeovers has resulted in persons with no devotion, no profound knowledge about Vedas or Hinduism, non-Hindus and even communists who have nothing to do with any religion end up being on governing bodies of Hindu temples.
16. Hindu priests and pilgrims are a neglected lot
Yearly profit of temples in crores is not utilized for the advancement of temples and its activities, which leaves Hindu priests inadequately paid and Hindu pilgrims ineffectively cared for. Facilities for pilgrims at most temples, be it travel framework, medicinal, lodging, food service or paying obeisance at the main shrines are deficient that impacts the overall impression of the faith.
17. Government control of temples has crippled the cultural, social and spiritual life of Hindus
Not allowing the temples to be true guardians of Hindu faith and permitting them to care for their followers, their culture, traditions and social life, government control of these institutions has crippled the growth of the religious life of country’s majority faith.