AFTER watching the breathtaking pictures of a golden temple, under construction in the State of Tamil Nadu, my mind started reeling and swirling with hundreds of grandiose Hindu temples built all over ancient India. Ancient means times before the 11th century AD. Some temples took decades for construction and continuous additions. There is strong evidence of the grandeur of Hindu temples in all four southern states of India, but sadly enough, there is no pre-Independence trace of them in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, where I lived before moving to the US in 1968. This tidal thought-wave finally hit me.
The gold alone does not make a temple golden. It is the blood and sweat of persons from every stratum of society that makes a temple truly golden and historical. The Hindus have built thousands of temples that were loaded with gold and precious stones in temple exteriors, interiors and over the idols of the deities. Where have they gone? They all met the fate of super Hindu temples in Somnath, Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain, Varanasi, etc. My Tamilian friend of 40+ years was shocked to know that my ancient town of Bathinda did not have even a single Hindu temple before Independence, while a church, a mosque and two Sikh gurdwaras have been standing there for more than 150 years. A poor, beaten-up and sick man eventually loses all his possessions including his beautiful wife and children, if any. That is what has happened to the Hindus in India during the last 1,000 years. Subsequently, they have lost their true identities.
In 2004, a Swami Narayan Temple (BAPS) was opened up in Houston, and I happened to visit it. It is a 25-million dollar architectural beauty in white Italian marble with most intricate carvings. In the aftermath of 9/11 Attack of America, my mind was occupied by its protection. At the end of the tour, I posed this security question to one of the temple associates. First he tried to shrug me off, and then he said, “God protects it!”
Hindus, as a society, are a perfect example of people who do not learn from their history and hence they are condemned to repeat it. In 2001, the Akshardham (BAPS) Hindu Temple (means indestructible!), in Gandhi Nagar, the capital of Gujarat, was attacked by Islamic terrorists. A dozen devotees were killed, and many more injured. When I visited the temple two years ago, there was no talk, marker, or reminder of this tragedy – as if it did not strike! The world forgets what you fail to compel it to remember. It is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as applied to mass human psychology.
The gold and treasures in the vaults of ancient Hindu temples have attracted all sorts of evil eyes. Besides, foreign invaders of India plundering the Hindu temples, the temple trustees, priests and custodians have been known to smuggle its relics out and sell them to foreigner curators. Every major museum in the world, having a section on ancient India, has several idols surreptitiously taken out of India with the connivance of officials of the temples, excise and customs and archaeological departments. Last month, I commented in my History of Mathematics class, “At one time, I was offended by this practice. But after seeing the deplorable conditions of the State museums in places like Srinagar (Kashmir) and eastern states of India, these artifacts, spirited out of India, are now serving both the general public and scholars far more effectively.”
The construction of this golden temple and any Swami Narayan Temple fills me with delight and pride. They symbolise a renaissance of Hinduism. But the Hindus will fall short, if they do not protect them and their associated belief systems. Any reliance on the government is foolhardy. A temple is a sacred home of a community. If an attack on a Hindu temple is not taken as attack on every Hindu in the neighborhood, then subsequently, individual Hindus will come under attack too. If Ambanis, Mittals and Birlas do not build grander temples, and stand up and support fights against the attacks on the Hindu temples anywhere in the world, they are not going to breath safely from extortionists and blackmailers.
Talking of extortions, it reminds me of what happened during the Muslim and British periods. Ironically, all the wars that the Mugals fought against the Hindu rulers were financed by the rich Hindu jewellers and goldsmiths of Chandani Chowk, Delhi! They dared not say no to their Mughal rulers —on the top of paying dual jazia imposed upon them. The British used the Hindu princes to pressurise the Hindu public to collect high land revenues. The World War I and II were partly financed by the Hindus. During the decades of 1970s and 80s, the rich Hindus in Punjab paid millions of rupees as protection money to the so-called, Sikh terrorists, as the Pakistanis had joined them. In the US, the rich Hindus cannot say no to the phone calls for donations in election campaigns. It may have helped the individuals, but the Hindu communities remain marginalised in the US, as compared with other religious communities. Khushwant Singh recalls the stories of extortions and abductions in his native village now in Pakistan
If Hindus do not stand up in regard to the construction and protection of their temples and faith, their future is not going to be bright. Immediately, my mind flashed back to the deceased Prabhkaran, the Supremo of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). He single-handedly galvanised the Tamilians into the fiercest people who challenged the might of Sri Lankan Government for 25 years. The support for their cause poured from Tamil Diaspora. However, Prabhakaran made the same historic blunder that Shivaji did, of not making Tamilian cause as a broad Hindu cause.
Any discussion on a golden temple cannot be complete without referencing to the Sikh Golden Temple (Harminder Sahib) in Amritsar. It is golden not because of gold alone, but because of the Sikh blood shed for its protection. The Sikh mainly celebrate Vaisakhi for the birth of Khalsa (means pure, militant Sikhs) and the battles they fought for the Temple. In its 300-400 year old rich history, it was demolished three times. But each time, it was re-built bigger, better and more beautiful by the Sikh volunteers alone.