There has been a hue and cry against the Temple takeover in recent months. Many prominent personalities and Saints including Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev from Tamil Nadu have taken up the cause of Free Temples from Government Control. In November 2019 BJP MP Satyapal Singh had placed a private members bill in the Parliament to free Temples from Government Control.
When the Tamil Nadu Government tried to takeover the Chidambaram Sri Nataraja Temple in April 2019, the Supreme Court curtly told that that ‘Governments job is not to run Temples, the Devotees should manage it’
When the Communist Government in Kerala tried to take over the Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, which owns gold and other assets valued billions of Rupees, the Supreme Court overturned the Kerala Government’s arguments and the rights of the Royal Family of Travancore was upheld.
When the Uttarakhand BJP Government took over 51 Hindu Temples including the most sacred Badrinath, Kedarnath Temples in 2020, it was opposed by many Hindu Saints and even the Vishwa Hindu Parishath. Sri Subramanian Swamy had filed a petition in the Supreme Court in this connection.
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat have lost the post of chief minister in recent developments and newly appointed chief minister Sri Tirath Singh Rawat have returned the temple to the Hindus.
Secular Governments are taking over only Hindu Temples all over the country and due to this, this has resulted in a public outrage. In this backdrop, it is most essential for the study of the History of Temple Takeover and its effects.
History of Temple Takeover act and its scope
The East India Company enacted the Madras Hindu Religious Endowment Act in 1925 to regulate the Hindu Temples. Since the other communities fiercely opposed takeover of their Religious Shrines, only Hindu Temples were taken over. Post Independence Secular governments amended the same Act and renamed it as Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1957.
Many states with their own act namely Karnataka Endowment Act 1972, Bombay Public Trust Act, Hyderabad Endowment Act, Coorg Temple Fund Management Act 1956 took over lakhs of Hindu Temples all over the Country.
As per statistics available Secular Governments in South India have taken control of 1.18 lakh Hindu Temples with 34,559 Temples in Karnataka including Kukke Subramanya, Chamundeshwari Temple in Mysore, Savadatti Yellamma Temple, 2992 Temples in Kerala including Sabarimala, Guruvayur Temples, 44121 Temples in Tamil Nadu including the Madurai Meenakshi Temple, 24632 Temples in Andhra Pradesh including the Tirupati, 12,300 Temples in Telangana. Totally about 4 Lakh Hindu Temples have been taken over by the Government and through this crores of Rupees worth gold, precious jewellery, Temple funds and lakhs of acres of Temple land was taken over by the Secular Governments.
Loot and encroachment of land of temples in various states
As per the statement dated 17th September 2020, by Sou. Rohini Sindhuri, Commissioner Endowment Dept, Karnataka, Rs 10,000 crore worth of Temple lands belonging to the Endowment Department is yet to be surveyed and is in ruins. As per the A.T.Ramaswamy report tabled in the State Assembly of Karnataka in 2007, 29.09 Acres of land worth Rs 165.55 Crores belonging to Temples in Bengaluru have been illegally encroached. There have been no efforts by the officials to reclaim these encroached Temple lands back from the land mafia. Tamil Nadu Temples have 4,28,000 Acres of Land. Out of this 47,000 Acres of land has been illegally encroached. Due to the Government’s apathy instead of earning an annual revenue of Rs 6000 crores these lands are yielding a paltry Rs 58 Crores. As per the statement of Sri. R. Arjun Rao. Endowment Commissioner, Andhra Pradesh 1 Lakh Acres have been encroached in Andhra Pradesh. Hindu Vidhidhnya Parishad had exposed the huge loot made by politicians of 25000 Acres relating to land belonging to 2067 Temples coming under the Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti. I
n March 2021 The Orissa Law Minister Sri. Prathap clarified in the Assembly that the process of selling 35,000 acres of land belonging to Jagannath Temple in Puri, donated by thousands of devotees has commenced. In this manner due to negligence of corrupt officials, thousands of crores of Rupees worth Temple lands have either been looted or encroached.
Corrupt Politicians waiting to loot the Assets, Gold and land of Hindu Temples
In May 2020 when the Andhra Pradesh Government gave orders to sell assets worth 53 Crores of the Tirupati Temple, claiming that the Temple had undergone losses due to Covid, due to backlash from devout Hindus it was forced to withdraw it’s orders. Similarly the decision of the Kerala Government to sell antique lamps and other items of Hindu Temples was stayed by the Kerala High Court. Even the Tamil Nadu Government had to cancel it’s orders given to Temples to release 10 Crores for Corona Relief due to severe opposition from Hindus.
Kolluru Shri Mookambika Temple stuck in a major scam
The Devasthan And Dharmik Sanstha Mahasangh, Karnataka from 2005 to 2018 has filed several applications under Right to Information (RTI) Act. Based on the information procured from these RTI applications, the Mahasangh have noticed several crores of rupees being swindled illegally and other such irregularities. More details of this large-scale racket are provided below:
It was noticed that the temple had not maintained a proper inventory/register detailing the gold, silver ornaments and jewellery offered to the temple deity by the devotees.
The audit report of Kolluru Shree Mookambika temple between 2005 to 2018 noticed that the temple authorities are been involved in the misappropriation of crores of rupees.
While Devotees offer all the valuables to the deity with utmost devotion. As per the applicable provisions of the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, it is mandated that whenever the Hundi is opened or annually once, physical inspection is required to be carried out with the applicable register signed by competent authorities confirming the weight of gold, its value etc. However, the audit report shows clearly that the officials have not made any such valuation between the years 2005 to 2016. On account of such blatant malpractice, the temple officials have stolen temple gold weighing about 4.2 kilograms amounting to several crores of rupees. The officials involved include the chief operating officer of the temple, the superintendent, staff involved in issuing computer voucher, security guards all including 6 such officials/workers were detained. It is noted in the police investigation report and the audit report that the authorities have pocketed the gold by granting a temporary receipt to the devotees for having received the valuables. In this way the gold offered to God was plundered.
Temples are not complying with applicable laws in maintaining appropriate registers for recording advances received from devotees.
For various purchases and services, the temple has paid contractors for the works described in the purchase/service orders. Up to 2018-19, the temple has pending recoverable dues of about 2.83 crores. It is not clear as per the records as to from where such dues have to be recovered, as no advance register is maintained.
Money spent illegally from temple funds for purposes other than religious purpose:
In the year 2018-19, Rs. 5.28 lakhs was spent by the health department to pay their staff salaries, Rs. 11.34 lakhs was spent for purchase of garbage disposal vehicle by the Gram Panchayati, Rs. 23,000/- was spent towards payment of phone bill of Collector’s house, Rs. 32,000 was utilized for payment of wages of Panchayati staff. This way the temple funds were used for purposes other than for Hindu dharmic/religious purpose, which is beyond the precincts of law.
Further for all these expenditures, there is no record of receipts/ documents
Between the years 2005 to 2018, Rs. 53.50 lakhs had been allocated for purposes of purchase of school uniforms. However, the temple doesn’t have any records to show any affidavit/receipt evidencing such transaction.
Further, it is shocking to observe that crores worth land title documents are not available with the temple.
Crores worth of Temple assets or immovable properties, real estate register detailing the lands owned by the temple, related title documents, the receipts of the account, the tax receipt and payment receipts for purchase of immovable properties, and maps of these immovable properties are not available with the Temple.
The temple has not yet recovered lakhs of rupees as rents from properties owned by the temple.
In the year 2018-19, temple’s guest house rents amounting to Rs. 21.5 lakhs are yet to be recovered from the contractors.
Overall, as per the auditor genaral records, there is absolutely no account of the disappearance to the tune of Rs. 21.80 crores, this means there is significant amounts of irregularities. Further, it was even advised to the temple authorities to recover dues of Rs. 84.96 lakhs and fill the same in temple treasury.
Based on the foregoing, there is evidence of such blatant irregularities and misappropriation of crores of rupees which has been unaccounted was noticed by the auditors. This was found only in one temple. What could be the status of all other temples?
In the administration of temples, the authorities are required to strictly supervise and inspect, further stringent punishment must be imposed on criminals, strict supervision of authorities, transparency in acts of such supervision, and protection of temple assets and treasures is critical.
Further, it is not enough for a devotee to only donate to the temple. It is also the duty of the Hindu devotee to further examine if the amounts donated are utilized for the right cause and should protest if there is misuse of such funds. It is for such reasons to protect Hindu temples, those having motivation to protect dharma and temples have collaborated to protect the interests of the temple. Let all Hindus, unite and take part in this cause to protect our temple and receive the grace and blessings of God.
Article Translated from Kannada to English by :- Swaraagni Murthy and Arvind Baliga
Written by:- Mr. Mohan Gowda, State Coordinator, Devasthan And Dharmik Sanstha Mahasangh, Karnataka, Contact no: 7204082609