The forgotten history behind China’s Hindu temples – Ananth Krishnan

Hindu Goddess in Quanzhou, China

Ananth Krishnan“In and around Quanzhou, a bustling Chinese industrial city, there are shrines that historians believe may have been part of a network of more than a dozen Hindu temples and shrines.” – Ananth Krishnan

For the residents of Chedian, a few thousand-year-old village of muddy by-lanes and old stone courtyard houses, she is just another form of Guanyin, the female Bodhisattva who is venerated in many parts of China.

Quanzhou,  Fujian, ChinaBut the goddess that the residents of this village pray to every morning, as they light incense sticks and chant prayers, is quite unlike any deity one might find elsewhere in China. Sitting cross-legged, the four-armed goddess smiles benignly, flanked by two attendants, with an apparently vanquished demon lying at her feet.

Local scholars are still unsure about her identity, but what they do know is that this shrine’s unique roots lie not in China, but in far away south India. The deity, they say, was either brought to Quanzhou — a thriving port city that was at the centre of the region’s maritime commerce a few centuries ago — by Tamil traders who worked here some 800 years ago, or perhaps more likely, crafted by local sculptors at their behest.

“This is possibly the only temple in China where we are still praying to a Hindu God,” says Li San Long, a Chedian resident, with a smile.

“Even though most of the villagers still think she is Guanyin!” Mr. Li said the village temple collapsed some 500 years ago, but villagers dug through the rubble, saved the deity and rebuilt the temple, believing that the goddess brought them good fortune — a belief that some, at least, still adhere to.

The Chedian shrine is just one of what historians believe may have been a network of more than a dozen Hindu temples or shrines, including two grand big temples, built in Quanzhou and surrounding villages by a community of Tamil traders who lived here during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties.

At the time, this port city was among the busiest in the world and was a thriving centre of regional maritime commerce.

Hindu temple in Quanzhou, China, with Narasimha depicted on the stone frieze.The history of Quanzhou’s temples and Tamil links was largely forgotten until the 1930s, when dozens of stones showing perfectly rendered images of the God Narasimha — the man-lion avatar of Vishnu — were unearthed by a Quanzhou archaeologist called Wu Wenliang. Elephant statues and images narrating mythological stories related to Vishnu and Shiva were also found, bearing a style and pattern that was almost identical to what was evident in the temples of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh from a similar period.

Wu’s discoveries received little attention at the time as his country was slowly emerging from the turmoil of the Japanese occupation, the Second World War and the civil war. It took more than a decade after the Communists came to power in 1949 for the stones and statues to even be placed in a museum, known today as the Quanzhou Maritime Museum.

“It is difficult to say how many temples there were, and how many were destroyed or fell to ruin,” the museum’s vice curator Wang Liming told The Hindu. “But we have found them spread across so many different sites that we are very possibly talking about many temples that were built across Quanzhou.”

Elephant worshipping Shiva Lingam,  Quanzhou, ChinaToday, most of the sculptures and statues are on display in the museum, which also showcases a map that leaves little doubt about the remarkable spread of the discoveries. The sites stretch across more than a dozen locations located all over the city and in the surrounding county. The most recent discoveries were made in the 1980s, and it is possible, says Ms. Wang, that there are old sites yet to be discovered.

The Maritime Museum has now opened a special exhibit showcasing Quanzhou’s south Indian links. Ms. Wang says there is a renewed interest — and financial backing — from the local government to do more to showcase what she describes as the city’s “1000-year-old history with south India,” which has been largely forgotten, not only in China but also in India.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about this period,” she says, “so if we can get any help from Indian scholars, we would really welcome it as this is something we need to study together. Most of the stones come from the 13th century Yuan Dynasty, which developed close trade links with the kingdoms of southern India. We believe that the designs were brought by the traders, but the work was probably done by Chinese workers.”

Ms. Wang says the earliest record of an Indian residing in Quanzhou dates back to the 6th century. An inscription found on the Yanfu temple from the Song Dynasty describes how the monk Gunaratna, known in China as Liang Putong, translated sutras from Sanskrit. Trade particularly flourished in the 13th century Yuan Dynasty. In 1271, a visiting Italian merchant recorded that the Indian traders “were recognised easily.”

Narasimha in the Kaiyuan Temple, Quanzhou, China“These rich Indian men and women mainly live on vegetables, milk and rice,” he wrote, unlike the Chinese “who eat meat and fish.” The most striking legacy of this period of history is still on public display in a hidden corner of the 7th century Kaiyuan Buddhist Temple, which is today Quanzhou’s biggest temple and is located in the centre of the old town. A popular attraction for Chinese Buddhists, the temple receives a few thousand visitors every day. In a corner behind the temple, there are at least half a dozen pillars displaying an extraordinary variety of inscriptions from Hindu mythology. A panel of inscriptions depicting the God Narasimha also adorns the steps leading up to the main shrine, which houses a Buddha statue. Huang Yishan, a temple caretaker whose family has, for generations, owned the land on which the temple was built, says the inscriptions are perhaps the most unique part of the temple, although he laments that most of his compatriots are unaware of this chapter of history. On a recent afternoon, as a stream of visitors walked up the steps to offer incense sticks as they prayed to Buddha, none spared a glance at the panel of inscriptions. Other indicators from Quanzhou’s rich but forgotten past lie scattered through what is now a modern and bustling industrial city, albeit a town that today lies in the shadow of the provincial capital Xiamen and the more prosperous port city of Guangzhou to the far south.

A few kilometres from the Kaiyuan temple stands a striking several metre-high Shiva lingam in the centre of the popular Bamboo Stone Park. To the city’s residents, however, the lingam is merely known as a rather unusually shaped “bamboo stone,” another symbol of history that still stays hidden in plain sight. – The Hindu, 19 July 2013

» Ananth Krishnan is The Hindu’s China correspondent.

Ganesh Chaturthi – Sadhu Rangarajan

Ganapati

Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan“Ganesha stands for clarity of mind. For the clarity of the mind, a large head which can conceive and understand the Vedic truths is required. And the ears should be wide enough to hear clearly the srutis. The long trunk stands for the power of discrimination which can solve gross problems in the outer world, which are similar to lifting of heavy weight, and also be employed in the subtle realms of inner personality layers, which can be compared to plucking small blades of grass. His pot-belly stands for the capacity of the mind to digest all sorts of experiences—pleasant or unpleasant. Thus every aspect of his form is a symbolic representation of an aspect of the perfected mind, the pranava swaroopa.” — Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan

Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva within an OmOf all the Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, Lord Ganesha is the most popular and powerful too. No undertaking, auspicious or inauspicious, can be launched even by the other Gods without invoking Lord Ganesha. Brahma once forgot to worship Ganesha before commencing a yagna. Even the creator will not be spared if he violates the rules of righteousness. Not only he, but all the other Gods who participated in his yagna incurred the wrath of Saraswati due to a misunderstanding, and were cursed. No wonder that Shiva worshipped him before the conquest of Tripura, Vishnu before tying up Mahabali, Brahma before starting creation, Sesh Nag before carrying the earth on its head, Parvati before destroying Mahishasura, Rama before Setubandha and Krishna to get rid of a false accusation.

VarahamihiraLike many other Gods, Ganesha, too, emerged only as a totemic God. But this tribal deity got entry into the Aryan pantheon and had an almost meteoric rise to a higher position and popularity than others. It is believed that Ganesha worship began during the Gupta period, even before the sixth century CE, for the Brihad Samhita of Varahamihira belonging to that date prescribes details regarding fashioning of Ganesha images. But soon, in the tenth century, we see Ganesha enjoying a prominent position, and having a separate sect called Gaanaapatya. He is also Vishwaksena or Tumbikkai  Alwar  of Vaishnavism. He was borrowed by other sects like Buddhism and Jainism and became popular all over Asia and in many other parts of the world. As a Hindu deity he is worshipped in South-East Asia and as a Buddhist in Far East. He commands worship in Dargah Pir Rathan Nath in Kabul, and the early representations of Ganesha are found in Afghanistan. He is the popular Heramba of Nepalese, and finds a place above the main entrance to Tibetan temples including Buddhist. He is  Ateshgah Fire Temple on Azerbaijan postage stamp.popular in Khotan. Along with Buddhism, he entered into Mongolia. In Baku, on the Caspian, in Azerbaijan, he is in a fire temple claimed by both the Hindus and Parsis as their own. The Japanese and Chinese knew him in two forms—one similar to that in India and the other two-faced elephant representing the male part and the female counterpart. The Japanese call him Kon-Kiten. Ganesha serves as a model of meditation for the Javanese Muslims.  His worship has spread in Mexico, Burma, Cambodia, Champa and everywhere the Indians have gone.

Worshipped in many forms, Ganesha, in his female form, is Ganeshani, not only in the South Indian temples at Suchindram and Madurai and in Bhere Ghat near Jabalpur in the North, but even in the remote Tibet. He is a child, like Navaneeta Lord & Lady Ganesha embracing in JapanKrishna, in Jalakanteswara temple of Vellore, a Saligram in Tirunallore, a dancing God in the Hoyasaleswara temple at Halebid and a flute-player in Srisailam. Why, you can see him sporting in Western trousers in the distant Chinese Turkistan! He has varying forms in each yuga too—in Krita with ten hands and with the lion for his vehicle, in Treta as Mayuresa seated on peacock, in Dwapara with four hands and of red hue, and in Kali with two hands and, of course, the trunk.

Ganesh is verily the chosen deity of the youth. Himself youthful and energetic, he is “sadaa baalaroopaapi vignaadrihantree” (although young always, can yet despoil a mountain of obstacles) according to Sankara. Innumerable are the temples dedicated to him throughout the length and breadth of the country. In states like Tamilnadu, there cannot be found any street corner in cities and towns and any village where there is not at least one Vinayaka temple—big or small. The Ashtha Siddhi Vinayakas near and around Poona and nearly 200 places known for Ganesha worship are listed in Maharashtra alone. He is popular in other States too, but not looked uniformly by all people in the county. In the North he is younger brother of Karthikeya and having two wives, Siddhi and Buddhi, while in the South he is the elder one and a confirmed bachelor.

Lokmanya Keshav Bal Gangadhar TilakCelebrations of Ganesh festival as a public programme were prevalent under the Swaraj of the Peshwas in Maharashtra. But it was Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who rejuvenated it in 1893. Like all other activities of Tilak, the Ganapati festivals were also socio-political in conception. The songs sung in the melas, the lectures delivered by prominent leaders during the festival days and the immersion procession on the last day of the festival, all provided a great impetus to the task of national re-awakening for swaraj and fight for freedom. No wonder that the British Government looked down upon these festivals with disfavour. But one remarkable fact is that in spite of the persuasions of the opponents of Tilak, who came out demanding scriptural authority for these public celebrations; the groups like the Prarthana Samajists who were opposed to idol worship; and the Muslim community who abhorred the procession passing in front of mosques, the British Government never exploited such easy excuses to suppress the Ganesh festivals, which were from the very beginning, unassailable on sound social lines and having their religious aspect much more dominantly expressed. Ganesh festivals are spread even outside Maharashtra and at Indore, in the far off Malwa, the festival has the grandest finale to it.

Lord Ganesha curses Chandra Deva!The fourth day of the waxing moon in the lunar month, Bhadrapada, is held sacred to Lord Ganesha, for it is the day on which the lord descended to the earth as the son of Siva and Parvati. There is a legendary explanation for the celebration of Vinayaka Chaturthi, according to which the Moon God invited the curse of Ganesha by laughing at his ungainly shape, and after penitence and penance, he got the curse reversed with the condition that he should worship Ganesha on the fourth day of the bright half of the lunar month and particularly on the Bhadra-Shukla Chaturthi. But worship of Vinayaka by his devotees aspiring for wealth and happiness on this auspicious day is not merely a matter of faith. It has its scientific significance too. On this day, Vinayaka is worshipped with leaves of twenty-one different trees, plants and shrubs, and it is called Ekavimsa Patrapooja. From the point of view of Ayurvedic science, these leaves and flowers have great medicinal effects and are abundantly available in Bhadrapada (August-September). Hence the celebration of the festival provides training to young men and women in the Ganesha Symbolism. identification, collection, preservation and usage of some valuable materia medica.

Legends are many as to how Ganesha got this anthropomorphic form. But wise youth will ponder over the symbolic representation of the Ganesha tattva. Ganesha stands for clarity of mind. For the clarity of the mind, a large head which can conceive and understand the Vedic truths is required. And the ears should be wide enough to hear clearly the srutis. The long trunk stands for the power of discrimination which can solve gross problems in the outer world, which are similar to lifting of heavy weight, and also be employed in the subtle realms of inner personality layers, which can be compared to plucking small blades of grass. His pot-belly stands for the capacity of the mind to digest all sorts of experiences—pleasant or unpleasant. Thus every aspect of his form is a symbolic representation of an aspect of the perfected mind, the pranava swaroopa. Similarly every action attributed to Lord Ganesha also represents some subtle truth. His riding the mouse points out that a perfected mind can ride over and control desires which run towards sense objects. His circumambulatiing the ओ३म्Divine Parents and thus defeating his brother in a race round the world signifies that all knowledge is encompassed by the realization of the Supreme Wisdom.

If rightly understood, Hindu religion is not merely a faith, unlike others, or a plethora of Gods and Goddesses or different modes of worship. Each God stands for a tattva and once it is rightly understood, the worth of Hinduism as a universal religion, which crosses the barriers of country and clime, castes and creeds, can be realized. Let us hope that our intelligent youth will strive to understand the real meaning and significance of Hinduism. – Yuva BharatiSeptember 1975

» Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan received initiation from H.H. Yogi Ramsuratkumar, Tiruvannamalai, in 1988. Since then he has been travelling all over the country and abroad, propagating the Ramnam Taraka Mantra in accordance to the command of Yogiji Maharaj. He visited South Africa in 1996 for the World Hindu Conference at Durban and since then made three more visits, spreading the ideals of spiritual nationalism in that country.

Ganesh image under construction in Thailand

Get free Ganapati chants and songs here

Yazidis: The last Pagans of Iraq – Sanjeev Sanyal

Melek Taus or Peacock Angel

Sanjeev Sanyal“While the origins of the Yazidi are uncertain, cultural and genetic evidence suggests that they may be remnants of Indian tribes that migrated west in the second millennium BC. There is considerable evidence of Indian links with the Middle East during the Bronze Age. For example, Zoroastrianism, the religion of ancient Iran — to which Yazidi religious beliefs have been linked — is closely related to early Hinduism.” – Sanjeev Sanyal

Yazidi holy man blessing a devotee at LalishWith US President Barack Obama belatedly ordering air strikes and humanitarian airdrops of food and relief supplies to refugees in northern Iraq, the world is finally taking action against the Islamic State. Within a few months, the extremist group, which until recently called itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS], has taken control of large parts of both countries, where it has proclaimed a new “Caliphate.” But the real reason to fear the Islamic State is not its lust for power; it is the systematic, cold-blooded way in which its members are erasing the region’s social, cultural, and demographic past.

Within a few weeks, the Islamic State has virtually eliminated an entire section of Muslim and Christian populations from the areas it controls. The city of Mosul, home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, no longer has any Christians left. Priceless Assyrian artefacts have been publicly destroyed in a campaign against idolatry.

Indeed, the Islamic State has not even spared the co-religionists who do not adhere to their extreme interpretation of Islam. A number of revered shrines have been demolished, including one said to be the Tomb of Jonah.

As terrible as all of this is, the worst of the persecution has been aimed at the Yazidi, an ancient religious group that lives among the Kurds. They number less than a half-million, and two-thirds of them live around Mosul in northern Iraq. The rest are scattered across neighbouring countries like Syria, Armenia, and Turkey. More recent immigrant communities are to be found in Germany and the United States.

Although influenced over the centuries by Christianity and Islam, the Yazidi religion has ancient pagan roots that go back at least to the late Bronze Age. Interestingly, their beliefs have many similarities with Hinduism — for example, Tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir at Lalishthey believe in reincarnation, say their prayers facing the sun at sunrise and sunset, and even have a system of castes.

They also worship Tawûsê-Melek, the peacock angel — a bird that is found in the Indian sub-continent but not in Yazidi lands.

While the origins of the Yazidi are uncertain, cultural and genetic evidence suggests that they may be remnants of Indian tribes that migrated west in the second millennium BC. There is considerable evidence of Indian links with the Middle East during the Bronze Age. For example, Zoroastrianism, the religion of ancient Iran — to which Yazidi religious beliefs have been linked — is closely related to early Hinduism.

Over the centuries, the Yazidi have been dubbed as “devil worshippers,” and have suffered relentless persecution, which was especially extreme under the Ottoman Turks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A series of massacres killed hundreds of thousands and almost led to their extinction.

Under Saddam Hussein, the Yazidi were not subjected to overt religious persecution, though they remained under pressure to Arabize their culture. Matters have since taken a turn for the worse. In April 2007, gunmen dragged 23 Yezidi men from a bus and shot them dead. Four months later, a series of coordinated car-bomb attacks killed at least 300 more, including women and children.

The Yazidis now face their greatest crisis ever. The Islamic State gave the Christians of Mosul the choice to convert, pay the jizya or leave. The Yazidi have been given no such choice and are killed on sight as “devil worshippers.”

The Yazidi heartland around Mosul is now largely under the Islamic State’s control. The small town of Sinjar, the only place in the world with a Yezidi majority, fell in the first few days of August as Kurdish fighters were forced to withdraw. Reports of large-scale massacres are trickling in.

Many refugees escaped into the mountains, where they are trapped in shrinking enclaves. Hundreds are said to have died already of thirst and starvation.

ISIS jihadi beheading in SyriaThe most sacred Yazidi pilgrimage site at Lalish runs the risk of being demolished.

Sadly, there has been little media outrage at the predicament faced by the Yazidi. Perhaps the US airdrops and promised strategic interventions, together with a possible coordinated operation by Kurdish forces (rearmed by the US), may rescue the survivors, but it appears unlikely that they will be able to return to their homes soon.

Centuries ago, the last Zoroastrians fled to India to avoid persecution. Their descendants, the tiny Parsi community, still live there.

Today, who will give refuge to the last pagans of Iraq? – Times of Oman, 9 August 2014

Yazidi Flag

Yazidi holy spring at Lalish Temple

Yazidi Religious Ceremony at Lalish

Yazidi Men

Kanwar Mela: Pilgrimage Indian Style – Maria Wirth

Pilgrim--called a kanvaria--carrying Ganga Jal to his home a 100 kms away

Pots of Ganga Jal

Kanvarias at Har-ki-Pauri

Maria Wirth“The majority of kanvarias reach Haridwar by train or bus and resolve to go back on foot to their villages and town in northern India. One group for example had come from Meerut. They planned to cover the 175 km in three days. There were several women, stoically walking along. Apart from the kanvar, many seemed to carry nothing else.” – Maria Wirth

Ganga JalAll over India, an interesting phenomenon can be observed. On one hand, materialism is on the rise, and on the other hand, spirituality is also on the rise. Even difficult poojas, like the Chhat Pooja, and arduous pilgrimages, like the Kanwar Mela, attract huge crowds, most of them young.  It shows that in spite of modern life style and western influence, the ancient bond to the spiritual dimension is strong. The majority of Indians still feel connected with the invisible power behind the visible forms and to the Gods who represent this unimaginable truth.

On July 13th, the first day of Shravan month, the Kanwar Mela will start again. Two years ago I mingled with the kanvarias in Haridwar. I post here, what I had written then. It is still valid:

Sitting in Dehradun, I could have got the impression that the Kanwar Mela is mainly about traffic jams, and about young rowdies who want to race on motorcycles through Dehradun and up to Mussoorie, if the police would let them. Most of my ‘secular’ friends consider the kanvarias as a big nuisance and heave a sigh of relief when it is over.

As over one crore kanvarias come to take Ganges water from Haridwar during the first fortnight of Shravan, there are bound to be some trouble makers, as well. Yet from my own experience, the overwhelming majority are amazingly good-natured and cheerful, though they are actually the ones who have a hard time. The people of Haridwar of course also have to put up with great inconvenience, especially towards the end of the mela, when those who walk the whole distance back home on foot have left the city and when it is the turn of trucks, motorcycles and loud music. Around 50 000 vehicles entered the city on each of the last 3 days of the Mela.

The number of kanvarias has exploded over the recent years. In 2012 more than 12 million pilgrims came. The huge crowds everywhere take a toll. All the more, the genuine friendliness of the kanvarias and the tolerance of the Hardwar residents stand out.

I went to HaridwPrayer on a leafar during the early days of the mela and coming in by train overlooking some city roads was a spectacular picture. As my sister called just then from Germany, I gave her a running commentary of the milling crowds, dressed in orange, and mainly young men. I am sure she could not have pictured it. We simply don’t have an equivalent in the West.  Maybe that is the reason why I appreciate and enjoy the atmosphere and my western orientated Indian friends don’t. They seem to be irritated and embarrassed by such display of religious fervour. Maybe they feel that it shows India in poor light. They don’t realise that this living spirituality makes India special in the international community. The western attitude of ignoring and even denying the invisible power behind the visible has made our lives empty and barren. Natural joy, cheerfulness and a solid grounding in human values are lacking without being connected to the spiritual dimension.  No surprise that mental depression is so rampant in western societies.

In the West, we try hard to enjoy ourselves and to have a ‘good time’ on holidays. There are many options, like going out for meals, walking around street festivals, going for sunbathing to a lake in summer or into the mountains for trekking, and of course not to forget, the one thing many people live for—the yearly vacation in some far away dream country. And indeed, we might have a good time, provided nothing gets on our nerves. At the same time, a sense of futility creeps in. Back from a holiday, everyone is likely to say how wonderful it was. But for many, it turns wonderful only in retrospective, while boasting before friends.

In India, celebration and enjoyment are ingrained in the culture and mostly connected with the Divine. Almost all festivals have a religious nature. A beer festival like the Munich Oktoberfest is simply out-of-place. And an egg throwing competition, as it was held recently in some western country, and competitions  about who can eat or drink most in the shortest time span that happen regularly there, leave a bad taste in India.

In India, divine power and sacredness are still taken for real and the tradition of doing tapas is still alive.  The Kanwar Mela is all in one: enjoyment, bonding with family and friends, adventure, trekking, devotion and rather severe tapas, i.e. sacrificing one’s own personal comfort as an offering to the divine. There is a sense of purpose. In the back of the mind, there is the link with Shiva. “Bum Bum Bhole” and “Jay Shiv Shankar” reverberate. There is still the acknowledgment, if not a sense of wonder and genuine devotion, regarding the invisible power behind the visible forms.

This attitude makes Indians cultured, even if they come from a very poor background. They have certain guidelines they stick to, and being good-natured and accommodating towards others is one of them. This is not so in the West. Egoism is the main guideline there. I remember a discussion in psychology class. “Is it good to be selfless?” was asked.  “No, it is not good”, was held, “because to express and fulfil one’s own needs has to be first priority to stay psychologically healthy”.

Pilgrim's FeetIn Haridwar, I watched the unending stream of kanvarias walking back home, carrying fancily decorated bamboo structures, called kanvars, with containers of Ganga jal dangling at both ends. Even in pouring rain they continued walking. Several wore bandages around their calf muscles and ankles. One young man, barefoot, was limping. Even one blister would make every step painful. Two handicapped men pedalled along in their decorated wheel chairs. Some middle-aged men did not carry the kanvars but had two containers with Ganga jal hanging around their neck. Yet, although tired, all smiled easily and waved, while I took photos.

Strangely, even 20 years ago, there was no Kanwar Mela in Haridwar. Kanvarias have been traditionally associated with Baidyanath Dham in today’s Jarkhand. How did it happen that the Kanwar Mela became such a huge event in Haridwar—after the Kumbh Mela the biggest religious gathering worldwide?

“You know, in Hinduism, we don’t have fixed rules how to worship. Everyone is free to do as he pleases”, an old Haridwar resident answered my question. “During the holy month of Shravan, there were always people coming to Haridwar to take a bath in the Ganga and then they would offer water in the local Shiva temples or go to Neelkanth Mahadev near Rishikesh. At one point, someone must have got the idea to carry the Ganges water all the way back to his hometown. And then next year, more people did it and so on. And now there are over 10 million people who carry Ganga jal home to their respective Shiva temples. A new form of worship has been born,” he chuckled.

Kanvaria with Ganga JalThis flexibility regarding worship in Hinduism, allows also changes in tune with the times. Nowadays, many pilgrims make use of trucks and vans, yet in an original way. The trucks are only the support system. It works like this: Relatives or villagers get together and rent a truck for the pilgrimage. Cooking utensils, stove, provisions, sleeping mats etc. are carried in the back of the truck, and a wooden platform above the luggage is packed with passengers. Once the holy water is taken from the Ganga, it is, however, not placed in the truck, but reverentially carried on foot by the young men of the group in a relay. At least one man at a time runs behind the truck with a Kanvar over his shoulder and when he is tired, another man takes over. This gives a chance to older people and those who are doubtful whether they can walk long distances to be part of the Mela.

Undoubtedly, nowadays even young kanvarias are not used to walking long distances. Yet the majority of kanvarias reach Haridwar by train or bus and resolve to go back on foot to their villages and town in northern India. One group for example had come from Meerut. They planned to cover the 175 km in three days. There were several women, stoically walking along. Apart from the kanvar, many seemed to carry nothing else. Some had a small pack strapped on their back.

From where I watched the stream of pilgrims, they had not yet walked ten kilometres from Har-ki-Pauri. How will they feel after 100 kilometres? It is certainly an arduous journey. Yet along the route, several Hindu organisations and even some individuals offer food and shelter for the kanvarias and stands to hang their kanvars on.

“Those facilities were not there in the old days,” a man from Bihar told me. In 1965, as a 20-year-old, he had walked the 120 km from Sultangunj, to Baidyanth Dham. “The path through hilly terrain was very rough, often littered with pebbles as sharp as needles and we all walked barefoot. I had blisters as big as cricket balls”, he remembered. Had he wished for something from Shiva? I asked. “No, I had gone in thanksgiving. I had promised to do the yatra if a certain thing would happen. It did happen and I fulfilled my vow”, he explained.

Many of the kanvarias may have come to thank Shiva for fulfilling some desire; others may have come to ask for some favour.  For many it is a special outing, physically demanding yet, ultimately far more fulfilling than simply ‘having a good time’, thanks to the heartfelt connection with their beloved Shiva. Bum Bum Bhole! Jay Shiv Shankar!

Priests conducting worship inside the Baijnath TempleSome background information about Kanwar Mela

The Kanwar Mela goes back a long time, and was originally connected with two popular Shiva shrines – Baidyanath Dham, also called Deoghar, in today’s Jarkhand and, to a lesser extent, Taraknath in West Bengal. Devotees traditionally worship Lord Shiva with bel leaves and water. The tradition to pour water over the Siva lingam is supposed to have its origin in the churning of the milk ocean. Before the kumbh (pitcher) with amrit emerged, poison wallowed up that threatened to destroy the world. Lord Shiva came to the rescue, swallowed it and kept it in his throat. His throat turned blue and the Gods rushed to pour water over him to mitigate the effect of the poison.

And to this day, devotees pour water over the Shiva lingam. It can be done any time and with any water, yet Shravan month, which falls in July/August, is devoted to Shiva and Ganga jal is said to be especially dear to Shiva. After all it was He who had cushioned the impact of Ganga’s descent to earth in his matted locks.

During Shravan (July/ August), devotees traditionally carry Ganges water from the place nearest to those two temples—from Sultangunj, which is 120 km from Baidyanath, and from Sheoraphuli, which is around 65 km from Taraknath. The pilgrims walk barefoot through difficult terrain, carrying kanvars. The Shiva Bhaktas are required to maintain utmost cleanliness, austerity and penance. Once the kanvars contain the holy Ganga jal, they must not be put down on the ground.

Until around 1990, the Kanwar Mela was a local affair in Bihar and West Bengal and still continues to be highly popular there. Yet since the 1990s, the Mela expanded in a surprising way. Har-ki-Pauri in Haridwar, where a drop of amrit had been spilled during the chase after the churning of the milk ocean, became more and more the focus. Millions of kanvarias now fetch Ganges water from there, carry it in kanvars to their home towns in northern India and pour it over the lingam in the local Shiva temple at Shravan Shivaratri, which falls on the night before the new moon. – Maria Wirth Blog, 19 June 2014

Kanwarias

Pots of Ganga Jal

Kanwarias

Jesus and the impending genocide – Kalavai Venkat

Jesus unleashes the four horsemen of the Apocalypse on mankind!

Kalavai Venkat“Hitler killed six million, Mao Tse-tung killed 45 million, and Stalin deliberately killed an estimated six million civilians. But remember, these 20th century monsters used modern weaponry and an industry-grade killing apparatus. Jesus, on the other hand, simply relies upon a Bronze Age weapon – a sickle, and yet beats these 20th century wimps hands down.” – Kalavai Venkat 

Steve WellsChristian propagandists claim that Jesus Christ is a symbol of love and compassion. However, The Bible tells a different story. In Drunk with Blood – God’s Killings in the Bible (pp. 271-274), Steve Wells admirably summarizes the biblical verses that portray Jesus as a bloodthirsty genocidal maniac. Wells is the creator of the famed Skeptic’s Annotated Bible website and funnily informs that he has “spent way too much time analyzing the three worst books (The BibleThe Quran, and The Book of Mormon) ever written.”

Let us now turn to Wells’ analysis of genocide that The Bible warns Jesus is going to unleash upon us. According to The Bible, Jesus would return to the earth holding a sickle in his hand (Revelation 14:14). An angel would tell him that it is time to start a bloody genocide. Another sickle-wielding angel would join Jesus and the duo would start a violent carnage. The blood they spill would cover the ground up to the horses’ bridles in a space of 1,600 furlongs (Revelation 14:15-20).

Now, 1,600 furlongs is about 320 kilometers, and a horse’s bridle is 1.5 meters high or so. If we take the bloodbath to be circular with a diameter of 320 kilometers, then the total volume is 1.2 x 1014 liters. Since an adult has about 5 liters of blood, that gives us 2.4 x 1013 (24 trillion) people. That is 4,000 times more people than what inhabit the earth now. Perhaps Jesus would wait till the population explodes to 24 trillion before unleashing this genocide. My Lord, thy mercy is limitless!

Wells points out that there is another way to estimate the number of dead on the doomsday. This revised estimate might appeal to those who abhor population explosion. According to this contradictory biblical prophecy, Jesus would unleash the might of the sword and hunger to annihilate a fourth of the population (Revelation 6:8). Assuming that the much awaited Second Coming of Jesus happens today, a fourth of the seven billion human beings (i.e., 1.75 billion) would be slaughtered.

Jesus DOESN'T love you!Jesus would then let loose four angels, who would massacre one-third of the remaining population (i.e., 1.75 billion). Jesus won’t take the chill pill yet. He would instead command 200 million fire-breathing horsemen to massacre a third of the survivors. In all, 4.7 billion humans would be killed when Jesus returns.

No matter whether one subscribes to the lower limit of 4.7 billion or the upper limit of the incredible 24 trillion, Jesus would be winning the Olympic gold for committing genocides if there were one. Other genocidal maniacs pale in comparison: Hitler killed six million, Mao Tse-tung killed 45 million, and Stalin deliberately killed an estimated six million civilians. But remember, these 20th century monsters used modern weaponry and an industry-grade killing apparatus. Jesus, on the other hand, simply relies upon a Bronze Age weapon – a sickle, and yet beats these 20th century wimps hands down.

Hail Jesus! You are my superstar!

Now imagine a Hindu scripture endorsing such genocides by a Hindu God or Goddess. Christian propagandists and their leftist minions would’ve taken Hinduism to task. But then Christianity, which actually sanctifies genocides, is portrayed as the ‘religion of love.’ The shameless pseudo-intellectual Amartya Sen even infamously proclaimed that indoctrinating children in the violent teachings of Christianity in schools is “perfectly acceptable“ whereas teaching them the wisdom of Hinduism and its harmonious teachings is not. Sen also perversely claimed that Christian indoctrination creates a “tolerant atmosphere.”

Perhaps, Sen hopes that he wouldn’t be among the 4.7 billion victims of Jesus. Alas, I have bad news for the shameless Sen. The Bible says that only 144,000 male Jewish virgins would survive the slaughter (Revelation 14:3-4). Unless Sen is a Jewish virgin male, I am sorry to say that his hopes are misplaced. – IndiaFacts, 27 February 2014 

 »  Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based writer and a practising agnostic Hindu. He is the author of the forthcoming book What Every Hindu Should Know About Christianity

Jesus Exposed!

SC throws HR & CE Dept out of the Chidambaram Nataraj Temple – B.R. Haran

Chidambaran Nataraj Temple

B.R. Haran“The recent Supreme Court verdict along with the previous judgements at various courts gives us a clear picture about the vexed issue of a secular government’s control over the worshipping places of only a particular religion. The judgements have made it clear that a secular government cannot take possession of temples. It has also made it clear that the constitution of Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Dept itself is against the Constitution, as it violates the religious fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.” – B.R. Haran

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiOn Monday the 6th of January 2014, Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment bringing a permanent end to the long drawn legal battle between the Tamil Nadu government and the Podhu Dikshithars. The SC’s verdict went in favour of the Dikshithars throwing the HR & CE Department out of the world-famous Chidambaram Natarajar Temple confirming the “Religious Denomination” status of the Dikshithars and their “right” to manage the temple.

Significant aspects of the judgment

  • Section 107 of the Tamil Nadu HR & CE Act ensures the fundamental rights enshrined in Article 26 of the Constitution. Hence, those fundamental rights can be neither denied nor exempted.
  • Section 45 of the TN HR & CE Act has not earmarked the circumstances under which an ‘Executive Officer’ could be appointed. Therefore, an EO cannot be appointed permanently using that section. He can be appointed only for a specific and limited period of time.
  • In this case (Chidambaram Temple), the HR & CE Department (TN Govt) has not specified the circumstances and reasons which warranted the appointment of an EO. Hence, the appointment is not legal.
  • The government cannot take control of the management of a temple without giving appropriate circumstances, specific reasons and limited timeframe. Even if there is a genuine case of mismanagement by the concerned party (religious denomination or trust), the government can take control of the management only for a specific and limited period of time required to rectify the mistakes and return it to the concerned party. Government violating this provision is against the fundamental rights ensured by the Constitution and hence will not be allowed.
  • Although the Chidambaram Temple is not constructed by the Dikshithars, they have been managing and maintaining it for centuries. So, the temple cannot be relieved from their possession and there is no question of considering such a scenario.
  • Also there is no provision in TN HR & CE Act for the government to interfere in the religious rituals and worshipping pattern followed in temple.

Young Dikshitar at the Chidambaram Temple.Confirmation of ‘religious denomination’ status

The most important aspect that the Dikshithars are a “Religious Denomination” has been ascertained many times in the past.

In 1891, the British authorities originally pronounced confirmation of ‘denomination status’ on the Chidambaram Temple (India Case Report 14, Madras, page 103)

In December 1951, Hon’ble Justices Satyanarayana Rao and Rajagopalan of Madras High Court in their order confirmed the denomination status of the Dikshidars and quashed the government’s notifications (Writ Petition 379 and 380 of 1951).

Terming the judgment of this Bench (1951) as very significant and landmark, T.R. Ramesh, President of Chennai based Temple Worshippers Society says, “This verdict cleared all the issues related to the Chidambaram Temple and the Dikshithar community. That the TN government chose to ignore this clear verdict and continued its attempts to take control of the temple is nothing but a show of arrogance and total disregard to the judiciary and the law of the land.”

T.R. Ramesh marks the following aspects of the 1951 verdict as very significant:

  • Podhu Dikshithars are a ‘Religious Denomination’.
  • As enshrined in Article 26 of the Constitution, the Dikshithars are entitled to continue their worshipping pattern and manage the Temple without interference or supervision by outside parties including the government.
  • It has been substantiated by history that Dikshithars are the traditional priests and that they have been managing this temple for ages.
  • The Temple’s revenue is the only livelihood of the Dikshithars. Hence, their contention that Hundis must not be placed inside the temple is correct.
  • Their arrangements for the safety of jewels and valuables are excellent. No better arrangement could have been made by others.
  • The allegations made against their management are baseless and without any evidence.
  • The government’s attempt to take control of the temple is against the religious fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

After delivering such a clear-cut verdict, the High Court Bench also certified that under Article 132 of the Constitution, the case was fit for appeal at the Supreme Court.

So, the Tamil Nadu government went for an appeal (Civil Appeal no 39 of 1953) at the Supreme Court. The Union of India, State of Bombay, State of Travancore-Cochin and the State of Andhra also applied as interveners. The Rural Welfare Department of the Tamil Nadu government filed a Civil Miscellaneous Petition (CMP no 49 of 1954) also praying for permission to urge additional grounds.

On 9 February 1954, a five judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan along with Justices Bijan Kumar Mukherjee, Sudi Rajan Das, Vivian Bose and Ghulam Hasan gave the following verdict:

“The Appeal and the Civil Miscellaneous Petitions above mentioned being called on for hearing before this court on the 9th day of February 1954, UPON hearing the Advocate General, Madras, on behalf of the appellants and counsel for the respondents and upon the said Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State of Madras agreeing to withdraw the notification G.O. Ms. No 894 Rural Welfare Department dated 28-8-1951 published in Fort St. George Gazette dated 4-9-1951 in the matter of Sabanayagar Temple, Chidambaram, South Arcot District. THIS COURT DOTH ORDER that the appeal and the civil miscellaneous petitions above-mentioned be and the same are hereby DISMISSED and THIS COURT DOTH FURTHER ORDER that there shall be no order as to costs witness.”

Hence, the 1951 verdict given by the Madras High Court was final and binding on the government.

In another instance, the Supreme Court, vide its verdict in the case between Mulkipetta Sri Venkataramana Devaru Devasthanam and State of Mysore, (AIR 1958 SC 255 – SC reporter 1958 p. 895), confirmed the denomination status of Chidambaram Temple as an off-shoot judgment.

West gopuram of the Nataraja TemplePrevious judgments related to this case

Shirur Mutt Case (Commissioner, HR & CE Madras Vs Sri Lakshimindra Thirtha Swamiji of Shri Shirur Mutt – SPA 1954): Supreme Court categorically observed that, “Under Article 26 (b), a religious denomination or organisation enjoys complete autonomy in the matter of deciding as to what rites and ceremonies are essential according to the religion they hold and no outside authority has any jurisdiction to interfere with their decision in such matters.”

Mr. Narahari Shasthri Vs Badrinarayanan Temple (AIR 1952 SC 245; SCR 1952 page 849): The court upheld the concept of ‘Ceremonial Law.’

Thiruvengada Chariyar Vs. Krishnaswamy in 1915 (p. 281 of Madras Weekly Notes):  The Supreme Court ruled that one mode of worship has to be followed at a given time and it cannot be interfered by another mode of worship.

A judgement by Allahabad High Court in Karamat Hussain Vs. Janaki Prasad case (AIR 1931, p. 674), and Supreme Court judgment in Ismail Farooqui Vs. Union of India (SC 1994 – 6 cases – p. 361) corroborate the earlier judgment of 1915 that one form of worship cannot be interfered with another form of worship.

Recently, with reference to the administration of Sri Karaneeswarar Temple, Saidapet, Chennai, when the HR & CE Department appointed an Executive Officer to administer the temple, the Hon’ble High Court, admitting petitions filed by the Senguntha Mudhaliar community (WP No 15468 of 2003 and WP No 15469 of 2003), ruled that the appointment of EO is unnecessary and observed that the EO could operate only as an ‘implementing functionary’ of the dictates of the Senguntha Mudhaliar community. It is pertinent that the judgment was in favour of the Senguntha Mudhaliar community despite it not enjoying ‘denomination’ status.

As recently as 2008, the Andhra Pradesh government recognised the worship and administration of the Chilkur Balaji Temple, Hyderabad, as unique and confirmed it through a special government order (GO M/s No 260 dated 29/2/08), allowing it to continue as it is, thereby assuring that the government would not interfere in the administration of the temple in future too.

Fort St George: Seat of the Tamil Nadu GovernmentState Government’s utter disregard for ‘Justice’ 

As agreed in the Supreme Court, the state government, vide G.O. Ms. No 1278 dated 21-5-1954, cancelled its notification dated (G.O. Ms. No 894 28-8-1951). But, seemingly with a deliberate intention of twisting facts, the state pretended that the Civil Appeal was “withdrawn,” while actually the five judge bench of the SC had “dismissed” it.

Again, when the state government tried to meddle with the temple, the Podhu Dikshidars filed a Writ Petition (WP 616/1981) with the Madras High Court. Hon’ble Justice Mohan in his order dated 20-1-1982, observed that the exercise of power by the HR & CE Commissioner is wholly without jurisdiction and is clearly against the statutory provision of Section 73 of the Act. Though his verdict went in favour of the Dikshidars, the Honourable Justice had also made an observation that “consequent to the cancellation of the notification appointing the Executive Officer the appeal before the Supreme Court was withdrawn.”

Notwithstanding the judgment delivered by Justice Mohan, the government again issued a notice (RC No 52754/1982/B6 dated 20-7-1982) to Podhu Dikshithars alleging irregularities in the administration of the temple and its properties and the proposal to appoint an Executive Officer. The Podhu Dikshithars had to rush to the Madras HC again by filing yet another Writ Petition (WP 5638/1982).

The High Court, through its judgment dated 9-8-1983, directed that the aforesaid notice would be treated only as a show cause notice and not as a decision, and that the Dikshithars could put forth their objections as per Section 45 of the HR & CE Act. Pursuant to the direction, the Dikshithars filed a reply on 9 January 1984.

Conducting an enquiry thereafter, the Commissioner passed an order on 31 July 1987, stating that the appointment of Executive Officer was only to look after the administration of the temple and management of properties, and it would not mean interference with the rights of Dikshithars relating to religious practices in the temple.

As against this order, the Podhu Dikshithars again filed a writ petition (WP 7843/1987) before the HC, even while the EO assumed charge of the temple on 10 August 1987. The HC didn’t grant stay, but stayed only the ‘clause 3’ (powers and duties of EO) and dismissed the petition on 11 February 1997. Even while dismissing the petition, Hon’ble Justice Venkatachalam made an observation (para 2 of judgment) that the Madras Division Bench’s judgment (13 December 1951) favouring the Dikshidars was “not upheld” by the SC, but was dismissed as withdrawn.

The Podhu Dikshithars again challenged the dismissal by filing a Writ Appeal (W.A. No 145/1997) against which the HC directed them to file a Revision Petition  under Section 114 of the HR & CE Act before the respondents and also ordered the continuation of the stay of ‘clause 3’.

The Revision Petition filed by the Dikshithars was rejected by the state government through a government order (GO. Ms. No: 168 dated 9 May 2006) and when it was challenged again, Hon’ble Justice Banumathi gave a verdict upholding the appointment of Executive Officer by the Hr & CE Department.

It was a sort of coup at Chidambaram on the afternoon of 2 February 2009, as the HR & CE officials took over the Nataraja Temple. The very fact that HR & CE Department officials and police were ready to enter the temple within a few hours of pronouncement of the judgement and attempted to do the same, gave rise to the suspicion that they were in the know of the coming verdict.

The first and foremost thing done by the department was to place a hundi inside the temple, exhibiting its greed for money while hitting strongly at the meagre earnings of the poor Dikshithar community. Within the next few months, the government placed three more hundis at strategic points inside the temple, which further hit the income of the poor Dikshithars. Apart from placing hundis, the government also had further commercialization plans, such as construction of choultry, marriage hall, trade and commercial venues within and outside the temple premises and promoting Chidambaram Temple as a heritage tourist centre, along with the nearby Pitchavaram Lake as eco-tourist spot – a total disregard for religious tradition.

The Podhu Dikshithars again appealed to a Division Bench of Madras High Court comprising Honourable Justices Mr. Raviraja Pandian and Mr. Janardhana Raja. Sr. Advocate G. Rajagopal represented the Podhu Dikdhithars and placed brilliant arguments. The bench adjourned the hearing for two weeks and Justice A. Raja replaced Justice Janardhana Raja. Finally, the bench upheld the verdict given by Single Judge (Justice Banumathi).

Ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi: He is the self-proclamed chief of the fictional Dravidian race.Evil forces and their nefarious designs

From this sordid story one can understand the greed and arrogance of the state government and its total disregard for Judiciary, Constitution and the Law of the land. Despite a flurry of judgements against its brazen attempts to take over the temple, the state government has not shown even an iota of remorse. The state government’s track record on this particular issue smacks of total contempt for law and judiciary, and utter disregard for morality, the majority community’s religious sentiments and timeless traditions.

As if this is not enough, Tamil extremist, Maoist and atheist outfits indulged in repeated protest demonstrations making false allegations against the Dikshithars and their traditional practices. These outfits spread a canard that the Dikshithars practice untouchability inside the temple and that they were not allowing singing of Tamil Saivite hymns like Thevaram, etc. Foreign funded NGOs, which always work with a hidden agenda of de-Hinduising this nation, also supported these extremist outfits in the name of secularism and human rights. These outfits also had Islamic and Christian fundamentalists as members.

A fake Othuvar (one who recites Tamil Hymns) named Arumugasamy, was planted by these vested interests and keeping him as a front, they have been creating a ruckus inside the temple every now and then and acting against the Dikshidars, filing false complaints against them. The planting of this fake Othuvar interfered with the centuries-old worshipping pattern of the temple, causing immense trauma for the Dikshidars and genuine devotees. The state government, for its part, encouraged these forces by turning a blind eye to all their sacrilegious actions. The TN government even went to the extent of paying Rs. 3000/- as monthly salary to the fake Othuvar and a famous Senior Advocate represented him at both the High Court and later in the Supreme Court! The fact that there is a conspiracy to undermine and destroy the religious tradition of the Tamil Hindus is evidenced by the support and backing given by the state government and other outfits and NGOs to the fake Othuvar.

But the truth is that the Temple is open to all people cutting across caste, colour and creed. It is also a fact that the Tamil hymns are a part of daily rituals and the Dikshithars are extremely proficient in singing them. With regards to Othuvars and other persons who are proficient in singing Thevaram and other hymns, they can sing from Sitrambalam or Sitsaba, which is just under the Ponnambalam or Kanaka Saba. It is ages old tradition that only the Dikshithars can sing Tamil hymns from Kanaka Saba. The famous and most respected Othuvar by name Sri Swaminathan of Dharmapuram has recorded that the “Othuvars must respect the tradition of singing hymns from under the Kanaka Saba”. More importantly, during Utsavams, the Tamil hymns get the top most priority as they are sung first and then only the Vedic Suktams follow.

However, the state government, Dravidian outfits, Maoists and Tamil extremists have hidden these facts and projected a wrong image about the temple and the Dikshithars, with the help of a section of the media.

Dr. Subramanian SwamyDr. Swamy and his foes

Totally demoralised and disheartened by the High Court’s verdict and the subsequent activities carried out by the evil forces, the Dikshithars approached a section of social activists and intellectuals, who in turn took them to Dr. Subramanian Swamy. Dr. Swamy gave a patient hearing and agreed to help them regain the temple management. As committed, he impleaded himself in the case before the two judge bench of the HC.

The Writ Appeal of Podhu Dikshthars  (WP 181/182/183/2009) dated 2 February 2009 was listed on 17 February 2009 before the Division Bench comprising Justices P K Mishra and K Chandru. Dr. Subramanian Swamy appeared in Court Hall:3 to implead himself in the Chidambaram case.

As the Sri Lankan Tamil issue was at its peak then, it came in handy for a section of lawyers to thwart Dr. Swamy’s attempt to implead himself, and also to spoil the admission of the writ appeal. The unruly lawyers physically attacked Dr. Swamy and a few concerned persons, and though the division bench postponed the hearing to the 19th, it could not be conducted due to the unprecedented violence inside the High Court that day.

Since then, counsel representing the Dikshidars could not list the writ appeal for more than four months, for ‘obvious’ reasons! As the counsel’s inability, possibly due to backroom manoeuvers of the ‘powers’ that be, to proceed further caused a lot of trauma to the Dikshidars, they ultimately opted for change of counsel. Then came Sr. Advocate Rajagopal and placed his effective arguments as mentioned above before Honourable Justices Raviraja Pandian and A. Raja. However, the bench upheld the earlier order of the single judge Justice Banumathi.

Supreme Court of IndiaSupreme Court’s decisive verdict

As the Podhu Dikshithars went for an appeal at the SC, Dr. Swamy impleaded himself in the case. Senior Advocates C.S. Vaidyanathan and R. Venkataramani, ably assisted by Junior Advocates on Record Smt. Bindu Nair and Sri Chandrasekar, represented the Dikshithars and Sri T.R. Ramesh, President of Temple Worshippers Society ably supported Dr. Subramanian Swamy. This team worked very hard for almost five years and won the case ultimately resulting in the Chidambaram Dikshithars regaining their Temple.

A lesson for Dravidian, atheist and Tamil extremist forces

Branding Non-Brahmins as ‘Tamil-Dravidians’ and Brahmins as ‘Sanskrit-Aryans,’ the ‘stalwarts’ of the Dravidian Movement have been trying to separate the Tamil people from the ‘Hindu’ fold, to de-Hinduise the state.

One stalwart, poet Barathidasan, wrote: “That day we demolish Sriranganathan (Bhagwan Ranganatha of Srirangam) and Thillai Natarajan (Bhagwan Nataraja of Chidambaram) with a cannon, will be the golden day for us.” Other Dravidian leaders also propagated that evil intent.

However, the Supreme Court’s verdict has landed heavily on their heads and completely destroyed their evil intent.

Chidambaram Shiva with Rishis and Parvati.The glorious history and tradition

The Chidambaram Temple and its custodians the Dikshithars, have a glorious history enormously recorded with proofs and evidences in abundance in ancient Tamil literature, epigraphy and official records of British India and Independent India. Bhagwan Shiva identified and projected himself as the first among the 3000 Dikshithars (Tillai Moovaayiravar).

Sage Thirumoolar, Saivite Sages Thirunavukkarasar, Thirugnana Sambanthar, Sundarar and Manikkavachgar have all sung in praise of Chidambrama Dikshithars in their Saivite hymns such as Thirumanthiram, Thevaram, Thiruvachakam, et al. Divine Poet Sekkizhar who wrote Periya Puranam and another Saivite Scholar Nambi Aandar Nambi also have recorded the tradition practiced by the Dikshithars.

Even the Vaishnavite Naalaayira Divya Prabandham has hymns sung by Thirumangai Aazhvar and Kulasekara Aazhvar in praise of Chidambaram Dikshithars.  The Chola history has recorded the glory of the temple and the Dikshithars community. We have epigraphic evidences with inscriptions made during Chola period.

Sanskrit texts such as Chidambara Mahatmiyam also talk about Chidambaram Temple and Dikshithars. In 1893, English writer Mcleen had published a lexicon in which it was mentioned Chidambaram Temple as a property of Dikshithars. Most respected scholar Dr. T.N. Ramachandran, in his English translation of Periya Puranam, has recorded the facts of a legal case involving the Chidambaram Temple and the Dikshithars in 1890.

Almost 1300 years of records talking about the glory of Chidambaram Temple and the Dikshithars, have been neatly compiled by Dr. R. Subbarayalu, former Deputy Registrar of Thanjavur Tamil University in his book Thillaivaazh Anthanar (Brahmins of Thillai).

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister JayalalithaaA verdict which will liberate the temples                                       

A close scrutiny of the recent Supreme Court verdict along with the previous judgements at various courts gives us a clear picture about the vexed issue of a secular government’s control over the worshipping places of only a particular religion. The judgements have made it clear that a secular government cannot take possession of temples. It has also made it clear that the constitution of Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Dept itself is against the Constitution, as it violates the religious fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Hence, it will be only appropriate that the various state governments which have taken control over temples return them to the concerned denominations and trusts. Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling Dr. Swamy had shot off a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayallaitha urging her to de-notify all the 40000 temples under the control of HR & CE Department of the TN government. He has assured his cooperation, in his capacity as the Convener of the Legal Cell of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Saba, the apex body of the various Hindu traditions, for orderly freeing of the temples in a phased manner. He has also attached the copy of the SC’s verdict on Chidambaram Temple.

Now the onus of freeing the temples from government control lies with the Chief Minister. Will she, is a million dollar question! – Uday India, 15 February 2014

» B.R. Haran is a senior journalist in Chennai.

See also

Freeing Hindu temples from state control – Subramanian Swamy

Dr Subramanian Swamy“Takeover of temples can happen, the Supreme Court held, only on establishing a clear case of mal-administration and that too the takeover can be for a limited period, and the management of the temple will have to be handed back immediately after the ‘evil has been remedied.'” – Dr. Subramanian Swamy

Supreme Court of IndiaThe Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment on January 6, 2013, allowing my Special Leave Petition that sought the quashing of the Tamil Nadu Government’s G.O. of 2006 which had mandated the government takeover of the hallowed Sri Sabhanayagar Temple (popularly known as the Nataraja Temple).

The Madras High Court Single Judge and Division Bench had in 2009 upheld the constitutionality of the G.O. by a tortuous and convoluted logic that new laws can overturn past court judgments that had attained finality earlier. The Supreme Court in 1953 had dismissed the then Madras Government’s SLP seeking the quashing of a Madras High Court Division Bench judgment of 1952 that had upheld the right of Podu Dikshitars to administer the affairs of the Nataraja Temple while dismissing all charges of misappropriation of temple funds against the Dikshitars. The Supreme Court thus made this judgment final and hence that which cannot be re-opened. But in 2009 the Madras High Court did precisely that. In 2014, in my SLP, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde therefore termed this re-opening of the matter as “judicial indiscipline” and set aside the 2009 Madras High Court judgment as null and void on the principle of res judicata.

In their lengthy judgment, the Bench has clearly set the constitutional parameters on the scope of governmental intervention in the management of religious institutions. In particular, the Court has opined that any G.O. that legally mandates a takeover of a temple must be for a fixed limited period, which I had suggested as three years.

The Dravidian Movement intellectuals and politicians in various parties in Tamil Nadu are incensed with the judgement. The recent article “Reforms in the House of God” (A. Srivathsan in The Hindu January 13, 2013) is one such example that laments the Supreme Court judgment.

Chidambaran Nataraj TempleIn this Dravidian movement background, it is not difficult to understand the views of those who believe that Hindu temples ought to be managed by the government, and that any deviation is a social, ethical, moral and legal sacrilege! In Mr. Srivathsan’s article it is stated that: “For almost a century, the Tamil Nadu government has been trying to bring the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple or the Sabanayagar Temple as it is officially known, under state administration”. This is one expression of the outlook that only Hindu religious affairs need to be managed by the government. The obvious question, why should a ‘secular, socialist’ government control only Hindu places of worship, but not Muslim and Christian religious institutions clearly has been avoided.

But the country has moved on after the phase of British imperialist grip on Tamil Nadu during which phase the Dravidian Movement was founded. Prominent leaders of this Movement had declared that “blowing up of the Nataraja Temple by a cannon is the goal of the Dravidian Movement”. Unfortunately for them, in the last two decades, the rising popularity of the Hindu religion among the youth, and the debilitating corruption in financial affairs of the Dravidian movement have made such a violent aim unattainable. But the biggest roadblock is the Constitution of India.

In fact, what is scandalous is the corruption after takeover of temples by the Tamil Nadu officials, MLAs and Ministers by looting the temple wealth, lands, and jewels, and the reckless diversion of donations of devotees to non-religious purposes.

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu.For example, temple properties: Tamil Nadu temples, under Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department (HR & CE), has control over more than 4.7 lakh acres of agricultural land, 2.6 crore square feet of buildings and 29 crore square feet of urban sites of temples. By any reasonable measure, the income from these properties should be in thousand of crores of rupees. The government, however, collects a mere Rs.36 crore in rent against a ‘demand’ of mere Rs. 304 crore — around 12 per cent realisation. How much is under the table only a court-monitored inquiry can reveal. In any corporate or well-managed organisation with accountability, those responsible would have been sacked. Yet, we have people rooting for ‘government administration’.

Temples themselves: The Srirangam Ranganathar Temple paid the government a (yearly) fee of Rs. 18.56 crore (2010-11) for ‘administering the temple’; for employees rendering religious services, like reciting Vedas, pasurams during the deity procession, no salary is paid. There are 36 priests in Srirangam who perform the daily poojas — they are not paid a monthly fixed salary. They are entitled to offerings made by devotees and a share in the sale of archana tickets. Yet the temple pays a monthly salary ranging from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 20,000 for the temple’s government-appointed employees, like watchman, car drivers etc. who perform no religious duties.

The situation is “significantly” better at the famous Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli. In this temple, priests performing daily pujas are paid monthly salaries, but ranging from Rs. 55 — Rs. 72 (and this is during 2010-11). But did some politician not say you can have a hearty meal for Rs. 5 per day? But it is just Rs. 1.65 per day, going by the standards of the ‘secular’ government.

HR&CE Minister M.S.M. Anandan Many large temples maintain a fleet of luxury vehicles, typically the ‘fully loaded Toyota Innova’, for the use of VIPs! And for the use of assorted Joint and Additional Commissioners and, of course, the Commissioner himself. It is very difficult to understand the religious purpose such extravagance serves or even a ‘secular’ purpose! The HR & CE takes away annually around Rs. 89 crore from the temples as administrative fee. The expenditure of the department including salaries is only Rs. 49 crore. Why does the government overcharge the temples – literally scourging the deities – for a sub standard service?

Temple antiquity: The third ‘contribution’ of the government is the mindless destruction of priceless architectural heritage of our temples.

There are several instances of sand blasting of temple walls resulting in loss of historical inscriptions; wholesale demolition of temple structures and their replacement by concrete monstrosities; in a temple in Nasiyanur near Salem, an entire temple mandapam disappeared, leaving behind a deep hole in the ground, literally.

Recently the government started covering the floor of Tiruvotriyur temple with marble, a stone never used in south Indian temples. The original floor was of ancient granite slabs with historical inscriptions. There are several initiatives for ‘renovation’ of temples — the bureaucrats rarely consult archaeologists or heritage experts. Without knowledge, experience, competence or appreciation and with great insensitivity they use inappropriate chemicals on ancient murals, insert concrete/cement structures, use ceramic tiles to ‘embellish’ sanctum sanctorum and construct ‘offices’ within temple premises. Ancient monuments 300 to 1000 plus years old are never ‘renovated’, only ‘restored’, a distinction that escapes the babus.

Counting the donations in a temple hundi. More importantly, the Supreme Court, in the 2014 Chidambaram case has held that the government cannot arbitrarily take over temples, which is what has been happening in Tamil Nadu under the Dravidian movement’s influence.

In the case of Trusts and Societies, takeover of temples can happen, the Supreme Court held, only on establishing a clear case of mal-administration and that too the takeover can be for a limited period, and the management of the temple will have to be handed back immediately after the ‘evil has been remedied’.

There are several large temples in Tamil Nadu under government control for several decades. If the Supreme Court judgment is applied, then the government is in illegal, unethical and unfair control of these temples. apart from being answerable for innumerable acts of dereliction of duty, defiling of temples that has resulted in loss of several thousands of crores of rupees to the temples and to their antiquity. That is my next move — to liberate all Hindu temples presently in government control on expired GOs. In the future we need to bring some mosques and churches to rectify the mismanagement going on in these places. Then the secularism of India’s intellectuals will be truly tested. – The Hindu, 20 January 2014

» Dr Subramanian Swamy  is a former Union Minister and a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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