Saturday, 14 March 2020

The grievances of Hindu temple groups of Tamil Nadu :

Hindu temple Tamil Nadu. depositphotos.com/
The following incidents of temple  idol thefts, etc  in Tamil Nadu  etc  have angered the Hindu population of this state. The reasons are many, but the fact is there are thousands of Hindu temples of great antiquity with no proper pujas, strong rooms for the priceless  idols and most importantly lack of proper periodic repairs, etc. These temples' estates/properties  need to be recovered  from people abusing  them  and improving revenues  that can be spent on improving facilities for the visiting devotees. 

The Hindu date 18 Aug. 2018 mentioned: From 1920 to 2017, a total of 2,145 icons and 478 idols have gone missing from 803 temples. These numbers are based on complaints preferred by temple officials to the police. Of this only around 60 have been recovered, and 18 have been restored to temples. Around 390 idols belonging to 33 temples remain non-traceable. ''Special court for cases under Prevention of Corruption Act sentenced a joint commissioner of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and department for two years’ rigorous imprisonment (RI) for demanding Rs 2 lakh to make provision in the scheme for appointment of non-hereditary trustees for the Arulmigu Aganda Thandu Mariamman temple at Choolai''. https://www.dtnext.in/News/City/2020/03/12012418/1219562/HR-and-CE-Joint-Commissioner-gets-twoyear-RI-for-demanding-.vpf
thehindu.com/
Protesting against the firm hand of the tough investigating officers   and their impartial grilling of certain officials, the HR&CE Department has been demanding a fair probe into cases of missing idols and was at loggerheads with the ''Idol Wing'' of the police.  “If there are officials involved, we would be the last to protect them. We are dealing with public property here and cannot be careless. All that we want is a proper probe into the thefts of ancient idols. Issues pertaining to the making of recent idols would be looked into and action taken if need be,” said one HR&CE Commissioner. The Hindu temple protection groups are not happy the way temple  properties are being manged by the state agency. Further, their careless handling of certain religious matters relating to temples  rituals and  periodic cleaning of idols, etc according to their whims without following the temple Agama sastras has become a subject of discussion among certain groups in the media. Why are  Hindu temples denied  freedom  in managing them  by Hindus themselves unlike other places of worship? This moot question is on  the  mind of  millions of Hindu devotees
“https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/a-turf-war-over-missing-idols/article24728338.ece
The following are the  grievances  of  Hindu temple groups of Tamil Nadu :
01. The entire Hindu communities squarely blame the past governments both at center and state for the loss of thousands of Indian metal idols of gods and artifacts, not to speak of not correctly following the temple rituals and lack of transparency in the appointment of employees, including people with rationalistic orientation. 
02. In the western society the govt and the church come under different entity. Politics should not get mixed with matters related to region.  
03. The govt. has no rights over the places of  Hindu worship and the estates owned by  them, but they keep them under their control. They argue the  administration of Hindu temples should be handed over to the Hindu groups

04.  As for other religious groups like Christians and Muslims who come under the purview of  minority, the govt does not control their places of worship and the language being followed for prayer. Nor do they lay their hands on the properties owned by them in the form of Trusts.   They manage their affairs on their own effectively. No political interference in their cases.

05. Why does the HR & CE focus more on the famous and money-spinning  temples and control them and the vast  revenues.
There is no clear record on the gods' jewelry  and silver vessels stored in the temples. Who is managing the valuable items in temples and how they are being managed and safe guarded against tampering or thefts?  No proper checking  of annual stocks of idols and other items in the temples. If they do have information on  such items,  why there is no  transparency? The local people are entitled to know what the temples possess and how the estates are being managed by the officials. They should display such details in public.
06. Across India, with exceptions like Tirupathi  Balaji temple or any other Hindu temples, most of them  do not charge  fees for pujas, fees for quick dharsan, etc. 

07. At famous Tamil  Nadu temples entrance fees, puja fees go up on important festival days  as the temple would be over crowded. This means lots of money for the HR& CE.   Such income is reported publicly. 

08. The officials don't publicly announce the daily hundiyal collections (donations) either on weekly basis or fortnightly basis.
   
   (a). At most of the Hindu temples  the priests - either Shivachariars or Bhattacharyas get a monthly salary  of less than Rs.2000.00 to rs.8000.00. This is also true of many pujaries who take care of certain temples in  villages. These people take care of the sanctity of the temples by sweating in the air-tight  sanctum for hours frequently doing pujas. Part of the collections on the plate (Thattu) goes to the staff and the part is shred by the priests. 
   (b). On the other hand a temple janitor or a peon gets more than Rs.15000.00  monthly salary. 

09. As for senior officials, including Asst. Commissioners, they are provided with AC rooms and other facilities besides cars and other vehicles, free food, etc. The people in the public ask why this disparity?  These temple officials get  a salary of more than Rs.80,000.00 to 120,000.00 per month plus conveyance allowance, etc from the temple income. But the temple priests are working like sweat hogs in the Srikovil/grabagriga (sanctum) standing for long hours and they  take home just peanuts  to run their family.

10. Many temples own vast properties - cultivable agricultural lands, buildings and houses in urban and semi urban areas, etc.  One estimate states the Tamil Nadu Hindu temples owned 
more than 500000 acres of land and now are  left with  only 420000 to 450000 acres of land only.
11. It is said more than 60000 acres  of lands in the villages and valuable plots in the cities, towns, etc  are  dubiously transferred to real estate barons  and a large cut went to the middle men. 12. In  towns and cities the temple buildings and shops are rented out to  certain influential people  at a cheap rate far below the market rate. They, in turn, take a large rent by subletting them to shoppers.  If a person has  just 4 to five shops in his family members' name, with big rent,  imagine how much he would make per month after paying the nominal rent to the temple. This way, using the Hindu places of worship, exploitation is going on by certain people and they earn a big chunk without sweating it out. 

13. For a pretty long time after 1970s the huge front temple halls had been converted into shops and the HR & CE collected monthly  or yearly rent from  shoppers. There was no proper audit  account on the annual rental income from the temple.
14. A few years ago there was a fire mishap in the Meenakshi temple at Madurai  in which several shops were gutted. This very much damaged the heritage  stone pillars in the temple hall  near the entrance gate.  Upon protests from local people, the temple authorities do not run bazaars on many  temple premises.  It was a good decision taken by the govt. agencies.
15. The vast income from the temples went to the govt. coffers for other civic purposes. As for temple upkeep, etc, money is not allocated to improve  temple  facilities, though  they do take care of  some popular temples.

16. The Hindu groups ask the temple management: 01. Why have they not yet built educational institutions/ schools or hospitals to take care of the common people from the vast temple revenues?  02. What have they been doing ever since they took control of the Hindu temples in the 1960s?  03. Why are they not renovating thousands of historical Hindu temples that are in a dilapidated state? 04. Why are some  senior employees treated like corporate executives with many perks, etc?

17. The various Hindu temple protection organizations point out because of sheer negligence  on the part of the officials, many valuable Iyempon (an alloy of five metals) metal idols dating back to several centuries  are stolen from the  temple to the illegal exporters of  India' artifacts. They do not show interest in getting the stolen goods from the temple. This kind of apathy is quite worrisome.
18. At some temples  a  few unscrupulous officials  dismantle a big hall in the name of repair or renovation  and the steal centuries- old  ornate and well carved  stone pillars and columns  and replace them with inferior ones.  The ornamental pillar is  taken out of temple for sale to art-work buyers. This novel theft  of ornate temple pillars is of recent origin!!

19. The Hindu groups'  grievances are about the appointment of people from other faiths  in the Hindu temples. They neither know the temple Sastras, nor do they  consult the authorities and act accordingly. 

20. Each temple properties, income, etc must be audited  annually by an independent auditing firm, but  this 's done by govt accounts officers and they do not publish the anneal auditing reports on assets, revenues and expenses, etc.

21. Many historical  temples are losing their  heritage values because of poor planning of construction work, use of improper restoration methods and lack of skill to deal with delicate old sculptures.  Further, such changes should be approved by the experts in Agama sastras. The decision making in this regard does not rest with HR & CE officials.  In the case of some temples, officials close the sanctum for a day or two in the name of renovation. Yet another glaring mistake is lack of caution in dealing with delicate old  stone images.  A good example is Sri Villiputhur temple where high-pressure  sand -blasting was used to clean the centuries old   stone sculptures before Sambrokshanam (consecration) was done several years ago.  Some stone images were partly damaged because of negligence on the part of workers.

22. Many people do say though  many the govt. officials  in the HR & CE in the state capital are  honest about their work, they can not keep visiting the temples every now and then  to check on the integrity of  officials working in the temples. They depend on the local employees and when they make glaring mistakes, higher-ups in Chennai and others take the responsibility;  sometime they earn people's fury!! 23.  It is to be borne in mind such corrupt and dishonest people on the holy temple premises, besides spoiling their names and the state govt. as well,  purposely engage in  degrading or disrespecting the the divinity and sanctity of the places of worship. This way they   hurt the sentiments of  tens of millions of Hindus. Elderly people say such dirty people  who cheat the innocent public will face the consequences one day as the saying goes:  ''the mills of God grind, but slowly'' - '(in Tamil 'Deivam Nindra  Kollum'' ). 
Apathy, indifference and ignorance among Hindus besides lack of interest among them  are the reasons why the Hindu temples are in a sorry state in TN where the past rulers were great temple builders.
Tit-Bits:
HR & CE: 
HR & CE, TN. www.dtnext.in
 It was in 1923, Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act was passed by Madras Presidency. In 1925, the Government  formed "The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board" consisting of a President and two to four Commissioners nominated by the Government to function as a statutory body. Later in 1960 The  Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act XXII of 1959  came into force effective from 1 January 1960.
An harm was done after 1991 and since then, no religious and spiritual leaders have been allowed  to interfere  in the maintenance and administration of the Hindu Temples and Charitable Endowments.  The Hindus, of late, are of the view that the officials act on their own relegating old traditions, agama rules, etc to the back. Now at stake are our ethos, Hindu culture and old tradition.  The slow degradation of temple arts and sculptures owing to poor management is a matter of deep concern. Revenues from the vast number of temples go to the govt. to take care of other social problems and not for restoring and saving thousands of Hindu temple rotting in many places.  The act controls 36,425 temples, 56 mutts or religious orders (and 47 temples belonging to mutts), 1,721 specific endowments and 189 trusts.

https://en.wikipedia.org / wiki/Hindu_Religious_and_Charitable__Endowments_Department
https://swarajyamag.com/insta/idol-theft-case-around-3000-temples-in-tamil-nadu-to-finally-get-strong-rooms
 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/1200-ancient-idols-stolen-from-tamil-nadu-temples-in-25-years-audit/articleshow/62611654.cms