Evangelism abetted by Christian principal in a Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam college – IndiaFacts Staff

Dr M. D. Christopher

SVU College of Arts, Tirupati“Until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the Hindu community.” – IndiaFacts Staff

The Principal of the Sri Venkateshwara Arts College who goes by the name of Dr M. D. Christopher has been accused by the students of college and various student organizations that he is aiding Christian proselytization. If one looks at the happenings at the SV Arts College in the recent months, there is a strong possibility that this allegation is indeed true.

Evangelist literature is being distributed to students in the college campus. The manner in which the evangelist books are distributed is quite alarming and would not have been possible without the helping hand of the college administration. The students of the hostel are specially targeted for this soul harvest. Evangelical books and other literature arrived in a postal package and were addressed to each student by his name and they were in fact delivered to his room in the hostel. The students say that such distribution of books has happened many times over.

Students allege that complaints about this missionary activity to the Principal  and TTD officials have fallen on deaf ears. The students of the college directly point fingers at the Principal. The Principal has appointed to his staff a person named Rajkumar. Rajkumar is alleged to have given out the names and addresses of the students to the missionary organization distributing the literature. In spite of repeated complaints, no action was taken by the Principal. The Principal is also accused of appointing non-Hindu staff. A complete report (from TV9 Telugu) on this incident can be found here.

SVU College of Arts, TirupatiVandalism at Sri Venkateshwara Arts College

The walls of SV Arts College were painted with portraits of freedom fighters, poets and kings a couple of years back for the World Telugu Conference. The students and the local community over there were maintaining it well and keeping a watch to ensure that there were no posters/bills pasted on them.

However, a couple of days ago, miscreants disfigured these portraits by placing a Christian cross mark on the faces of the luminaries. Even the much celebrated Sri Krishnadeva Raya of the Vijayanagar empire was not spared from this crude expression of superiority of faith.

The College already facing the brunt of missionaries boiled again with student and religious organizations taking up protests. Whether this was done by mischief mongers or by Christians will perhaps be revealed in an investigation but the blame again has to be placed primarily on the shoulders of the college Principal and TTD for not keeping such vandalism in check especially when this very College with same Principal has been in the eye of storm for the past few months for missionary activities. The complete report (from NTV) on the vandalism at SV Arts College can be viewed here.

YSR taking communion from a Christian priest.TTD: Trojan Horse and a symbol of secular Government tyranny

During the YSR and Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress rule in Andhra, the state witnessed evangelism on a massive scale. The TTD too was not spared. There were reports in the Telugu media about the employment of Christians in TTD. Due to public outrage, a Government order was also issued directing the TTD to have only Hindus on its payroll. Swami Paripoornananda of Sri Peetam, Kakinanda had to protest again as the order was never implemented.

A Christian pastor was recently apprehended by the police after making a video of him along with his comrades visiting Tirumala and calling the Hindus as devil worshippers. The TTD staff have repeatedly failed miserably to stop such incidents. On many occasions, missionaries used to distribute evangelist material openly but the TTD was utterly inefficient in stopping this vulturesque preying on Hindus.

First, the TTD should not have hired a Christian principal or any staff it a college run by it. After reports and strong evidence of support for evangelism by this Principal, it should have dismissed the Principal. On the contrary it asked the police to lathi-charge the protesting students.

The reason for this incapacity of the TTD is because it is subject to political influence and appointment of people to positions including the Endowment / Executive Officer are appointed by the ruling party. How can the Hindu community be served if the administration is not seen as a service of the Divine but as a career option?

Many Hindus are not aware of the fact that several prominent temples including TTD which gets thousands of crores as revenue are taken over by various state governments and the most of the revenue goes to the state treasurer. This is the reason one sees many hundis placed all over precincts of Government controlled temples. Many mindless rituals are done just to extract money from the devotees worldwide. The TTD has become a master at selling tickets to various redundant rituals and utsavams.

This Government control of temples is a throwback to the colonial past where the Christian British and Muslims Kingdoms used to take over the revenue generated from temples as tax. It was also a mechanism to hurt the Hindus in terms of demography. Donations made by devotees which would have gone to the development of the poorest of the community went to a foreign colonizer. At the same time, the British government planted several Christian missions across the country which targeted the same poorer section of the Hindu demographic that would have gained benefits from the donations made to temples.

State Institute of Temple AdministrationNearly seven decades after Independence, the pattern has not changed. Secular state governments have taken over several Hindu temples, the Community’s money is looted by the government—money, which is supposed to protect the right to practice and propagate the Hinduism, one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Hindus live in an independent and secular country but their fundamental right to freedom is severely curtailed. How is the Hindu community supposed to take care of its poorest when the community’s hard earned money is taken away from it?

The Christian community which has a huge proselytizing mission with massive funds backing it, has extensively benefited in Andhra and elsewhere as they have targeted the poor amongst the Hindus for conversions. They have gained massively in demographics due to this tyranny perpetrated on the Hindus. A foreign religion is being given such massive advantage over a native religion which swears by nationalism and deep-rooted philosophical and spiritual traditions spanning thousands of years. How long will it be before India becomes another Philippines or a South Korea, nothing more than a Christian outpost of the West.

Imagine the number of schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions Hindus could have built and sustained and how it would have changed the lives of poor Hindus. The secular state governments and the central government have become the biggest roadblocks to the prosperity and safety of Hindus.

Swami Dayananda SaraswatiThe long-term goal for Hindus should be to free Hindu Temples from Government control. There are several organizations working across the country towards this goal.

The Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha already has filed a case in the Supreme Court. In a seminar on temples, I had once heard from Swami Dayananda Saraswati that none of the state governments from the south had answered the questions put forth by HDAS in the honorable Supreme Court. Given the rate at which the judiciary functions, one should expect that Hindus are in a for a long grind and by that time, severe damage would have been done.

It would be better to lobby with a supposedly pro-Hindu central government to remove the Hindu Endowments Act completely from the Constitution. Please contact the various BJP Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly and ask them to remove this draconian act that is killing the Hindu community.

Narendra Modi & Rajnath SinghThe silence of the Narendra Modi Government in this regard is disheartening. The Government is aware of the problem, it is also aware of the fact that it is the Hindus that voted them to power. It’s been nine months since the NDA came into power and yet it has not taken any concrete steps to provide equality to Hindus. Hindus need to make their collective voices heard and bring pressure on the Modi Government. If it fails to act despite this, the BJP should be shown its place in the sun.

Many times, Hindus complain that Hindu organisations could have better spokespersons to represent them in the media. However, the travesty is that people donate to a government controlled temple like the TTD in crores but not to a Hindu organization that could protect our Dharma. That should tell us something.

In the end, until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the community.

Tirumala Tirupathi DevasthanamsThe road ahead

The TTD has taken a token action of ordering an investigation and a criminal case has been registered. But that by itself does not guarantee that such incidents will not recur in the future. Readers are requested to call up the official TTD numbers or email them to immediately dismiss the college principal on the grounds that he happens to be a Christian. Please ask the TTD to remove any non-Hindus from its payroll be it from colleges or from temple administration and all institutions run by it. To get a swift response from the TTD, readers should contact the Executive Officer(EO).

E-mail Ids:

Executive Officer: eo@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirumala: jeotml@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirupati: jeotpt@tirumala.org

Chief Vigilance & Security Officer: cvso@tirumala.org

Public Relations Officer: pro@tirumala.org

Phone Numbers of TTD Officials:

Executive Officer: 0877-2264160(c), 4977(o), 4393(o)

JEO Tirupati: 0877-2264877(c), 4231(o)

PA to the Executive Officer: 0877-2264545

Public Relations Officer: 0877-2264392

Central Reception Officer: 0877-2263922

Chief Accounts Officer: 0877-2264752,4213

Chief Vigilance & Security: 0877-2264390

Devasthanam Law officer: 0877-2264317

Dev. Educational Officer: 0877-2264396

Dharma Prachara Parishad: 0877-2264490,92,93,94

Overseas Temple: 0877-2277718

Complaints/Suggestions: 18004254141

Article Source: IndiaFacts, 22 February 2015

 

Our Lady of Madhu Church is built on an ancient Pattini Amma Temple site – Shenali D. Waduge

Madhu Church, Mannar, Sri Lanka

Shenali Waduge“The site where Madhu Church presently stands was the original site of a Pattini Devale (later called Amman Kovil) since 114-136 CE under King Gajabahu. This means that the Pattini Devale has been where the Madhu Church now stands for 1850 years. If the Pattini Devale is no longer in its original site it is because the Portuguese Catholics destroyed every place of worship that was non-Catholic and converted non-Catholics to Catholicism.” –  Shenali D. Waduge

Goddess PattiniWith the recent calls to rewrite history it is no better a time than now to bring out all the hard facts that have got both hidden or buried (pun intended). Every time the topic of colonial atrocities are brought forward for debate the quick response is to claim these as history pushing to the background the crimes committed in the name of peaceful coexistence.

However, when most of the laws in place today were created with the intention of putting past crimes into the background and to ensure the continuance of the reign of white rule over the rest of us. Given that we are all victims, it is time we started to remind these very nations of some of their crimes. The background of the Pattini Devale is important for many reasons – it is where the Madhu Church presently stands, the Pattini Devale has a history beyond 1850 years whereas the Madhu Church is hardly 150 years old. Misappropriation of sacred sites belonging to other religions need to stop. The Church has to apologize and return the site to its original owners.

Of late the media attempts to portray the Madhu Church as being more than 600 years old which is proven an exaggeration for the Portuguese Catholics came to Sri Lanka in 1505 – Catholic history starts after conversion of Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus. In fact a recommendation was to be made under the Ranil Wickremasinghe Government to recommend to the Vatican that the church be sanctified as a National Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. How historically and morally incorrect this move is to the Pope Francis with Sri Lanka flagHindus who are well aware of the history behind the ‘church’.

If anyone contests this claim they have to only refer to Brief Notice of the Origin and History of the Sanctuary of Madhu by the then Bishop of Jaffna to Mr. E. B. Denham who had tried to conceal that the church was on top of the ancient Pattini Devale as admitted by British civil servant R. W. Levers. They would also need to refer to Manual of the North Central Province by R. W. Levers who says “At the present day the offerings are generally taken to St. Mary’s Church at Madhu, which is considered by the Buddhist and a great many of the Tamil pilgrims, who resort there, as the Temple of Pattini Amma (Amman Kovil).” – these are historically recorded truths by the British themselves.

Chronology:

  • Portuguese Catholics arrive in Sri Lanka – 1505
  • Dutch Christians arrive in Sri Lanka – 1602
  • British arrive in Sri Lanka – 1796
  • Dutch Protestants drove out Portuguese from Mannar – 1670 (344 years ago)
  • Madhu a Catholic shrine only since 1870 (a history of 144 years only)
  • Even though the Bishop of Jaffna initiated the Madhu Festival since 1870, it did not have a church.
  • The foundation stone of the church was laid only in 1876. (so the church itself is only 138 years old and thus the claims made by the late UNP minister that the church is 600 years old is a total fabrication). Moreover, even by 1911 there were no permanent residents at Madhu. The Census of 1911 recorded 320 pilgrims, 230 of whom were Sinhalese from Colombo and the rest from Chilaw.

Gajabahu I also known as Gajabahuka Gamani (c. 114 – 136 CE) of Rajarata in Sri LankaHindus have greater claim

The site where Madhu Church presently stands was the original site of a Pattini Devale (later called Amman Kovil) since 114-136 CE under King Gajabahu. This means that the Pattini Devale has been where the Madhu Church now stands for 1850 years. If the Pattini Devale is no longer in its original site it is because the Portuguese Catholics destroyed every place of worship that was non-Catholic and converted non-Catholics to Catholicism. These conversions were done by force and anyone resisting faced death. We are well aware of the suffering the Catholic Inquisition since 1233 caused for all non-Catholics and heretics, and it was because the Dutch themselves were victims that they avenged the suffering they were put through by the Catholics when they arrived in Sri Lanka. The 1638 Treaty between the Dutch and the Sinhala King provided a clause to expel all Catholics.

The Madhu site is where the Hindu Amman Kovil has stood for at least 1850 years as against 144 years for the Madhu Church. What needs to be reiterated and what the Catholic Church needs to accept is that the Church usurped this ancient Hindu temple, not only that they desecrated the Durgai Amman Silai and built a Catholic church in its place in 1876 though the annual Madhu Festival has been held since 1870.

Cankili II (Cekaracacekaran IX)The usurping of the Hindu kovil is very much part of the inquisition objectives and a continuation of the wanton destruction of scores of temples, kovils and murder of Muslims by the Portuguese Catholics. The Church clergy may not like to be reminded that they ordered the beheading of the last Tamil Hindu ruler Sangili Kumaran and conversion of his family. Tamils should not forget that it was the Sinhalese king who sent his general to rescue the Hindu Tamils and in so doing sacrificed his life. Was it not a repetition of this very same scenario that occurred during the final phase of the war when 5000 military lives was lost to save 300,000 Tamils many of whom were possibly LTTE family members or even LTTE in civilian attire.

Therefore all Catholics in Sri Lanka descend from Sinhalese and Tamils who were forcibly converted by the Portuguese Catholics. 

At this point we need to also remind the Hindus that prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 the Sinhalese and Hindus were living amicably. It was the spectre of the arrival of the white man that brought a curse to the country since 1505.

Hindus and Buddhists became united through the efforts to bring about the anti-conversion legislation. We recall the efforts of UNP MP Maheswaran who tried his best to reconvert Tamils to Hinduism but he fell prey to LTTE’s guns.

So did six soldiers who were cleaning the Madhu Church premises on 12 Feb 2008.

Cardinal Malcolm RanjitWhile the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka says sacred places should be kept free of violence and bloodshed we cannot but wonder why they are silent about very prominent Catholic clergy who had been and continue to be very much involved with the LTTE and their sponsors both locally and internationally. The accusation against the Church of connections to the LTTE could have been easily negated by the Church taking action against these Catholic clergy by defrocking them. The golden question is – why has the Church not taken action against these clergy who have been very much aligned to terrorist activity.

Rayappu JosephIf Father Rayappu Joseph opened Eelam House in London, allowed the Madhu Church to be used as an LTTE office. We also recall the arrests of 3 priests on 1 February 2008 carrying suicide jackets and interrogations revealed that these priests had brought down 30 suicide cadres from Mannar to Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. These priests had even transported several suicide kits and weapons. One of the 3 arrested was a pastor of a church in Mannar. The previous year on 20 February security forces also recovered cyanide capsules and equipment from St. Mary’s Church Jaffna. What we can make out is that the Christian clergy had been used to transport weapons and explosives across the country – this is aiding and abetting terrorism.

Fr. S. J. EmmanuelWhat individual priests do using the cover of the religion can be effectively responded to not simply by issuing a statement denouncing the action. Given the innumerable cases of involvement by priests with a banned terrorist movement what the Church and its headquarters in the Vatican should have rightfully done was to defrock those like Father Emmanuel and Father Rayappu Joseph.

Returning to the issue of the ownership of the Madhu site – all that needs to be repeated is that the place is rightfully that of the Pattini Kovil of the Hindus. It is immoral for the site to be usurped and made into a holy site for Catholics totally ignoring the history behind the site. Numerous other sites across the country where churches stand were all formerly sites of Buddhist temples as well. The exact positions of these churches where former Buddhist temples once stood are given in the Portuguese chronicler Queyroz’s works.

Sri Lankan Catholic priests demonstrating in support of LTTE chief PrabhakaranWhat needs to be also said is that the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America were all invaded, occupied and systems put in place to convert the natives, kill those who refused, plunder the wealth of the lands and devise devious ways to play the natives against each other by creating sub-cultures that would create the necessary environment for these white Western nations to prevail over the ‘uncivilized’ world. Has any of this colonial mentality changed at all over the years?

 Be that as it may what needs to be said is that the very countries ignoring their own track records are dictating the rules of law to us the victims and all we can say is to return all that they took by force and level the playing field first. – Express, 25 January 2014

 » Shenali Waduge is a Sri Lankan civil society writer concerned about fair play in all matters that concern citizens of her country as well as the world at large.

Devi Kannagi-Pattini

PM Modi’s visit to Sabarimala will hopefully end the woes of the shrine – Rajeev Srinivasan

Ayyappan Temple at Sabarimala

Rajeev Srinivasan“The PM’s visit to Sabarimala should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.” – Rajeev Srinivasan

Swami AyyappanThe hill abode of Sri Ayyappan in the Western Ghats has become one of the most-visited temples in India, and it is in the list of places where the most places converge in the world (Source: The Economist, 2013). Unfortunately, it is also a testament to the incompetence and uncaring attitude of the Indian state, because pilgrims suffer greatly if they wish to visit.

Therefore I am delighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may visit the shrine this year, according to G. Ananthakrishnan (“Sabarimala on PM radar”) in The Telegraph, as it may force the authorities to improve the critically deficient infrastructure that they could easily upgrade, but won’t. It is also a metaphor for what appears to be active official hostility to Hindu pilgrims.

Pilgrims wait to climb the 18 steps at SabarimalaI know because I just went to Sabarimala for Deepavali. I have done the pilgrimage five or six times over many years, and can testify first-hand as to how it has deteriorated over time. My very first pilgrimage was when I was 17, and at that time there were no permanent settlements on the summit of the hill, where the shrine is. People only went there during the season (November to January) and for a few days at the beginning of every Malayalam month.

The main difference is the number of pilgrims visiting, which has grown exponentially, as it is an attractive, albeit difficult, trip, and the worship of Ayyappa has grown dramatically in the southern states. Then, I walked alone up the hill through rough paths, and I encountered only a handful of people who were going down the hill. When I went to the summit, I could pray for as long as I wanted in front of the deity’s tiny abode.

A few days ago, there were thousands of pilgrims at the summit, and I encountered hundreds returning down the arduous climb. During the season the numbers swell to hundreds of thousands of black-clad visitors, as the total number over the truncated period comes to over 30 million (which is the entire population of Kerala, to give some perspective).

Unfortunately, this tsunami of pilgrims has overwhelmed the carrying capacity of the area, and it makes the strenuous climb far more difficult than it needs to be. For, from the Pamba River staging area where vehicles park, it is a vertiginous climb up a few thousand feet through dense tropical forest to the small plateau where the shrine is. It is hard on the feet (we climbed barefoot up the granite and concrete path), on the heart (every year a few people have cardiac arrest), and on your system in general (there are only a dozen or so toilets on this path).

Once you get up to the plateau, things don’t get any better. Often, in peak-season, you have to wait for up to 10-12 hours in line in concrete sheds with corrugated-iron sheeting as roofs, which gets stiflingly hot on sunny days. Accommodation availability is utterly minimal: many sleep in these very sheds. Toilets, bathrooms, a clean place to sleep, decent food to eat, medical care—all are scarce.

The amount of plastic trash around the place is startling: bottles, bags. There are feral pigs – yes, wild pigs with mean-looking fangs – rooting in the food waste and human waste, and they add their droppings to the mess of mud and paper and flowers and plastic.

And there have been several stampedes in the past, which obviously is a problem of poor organisation and crowd management. (Tirupati, with an equally large number of pilgrims, has figured out crowd control; there is no reason why this cannot be attempted in Sabarimala too.)

This is no way to run a holy place. Nor any way to treat poor pilgrims who come from far away. I once met a barefoot pilgrim who was a Sri Lankan-origin investment banker in London, but many are ordinary folks from villages in interior Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. They come, black-clad and bearded after 41 days of penance, carrying on their heads the twin coconuts filled with ghee that they will use for ablutions. These are the believers, that vast and invisible substratum of India that Dharampal once mentioned: they follow ancient practices of pilgrimage to holy spots, ignoring the cities and other distractions. This is eternal India, sanatana dharma.

Hiuen Tsang / XuanzangYou get a glimpse of this true India when you finally reach the sanctum with your aching and weary body, your only thoughts those about Ayyappa. Strangely, when you try to get your micro-second glimpse of the presiding deity before you are shoved forward by the press of those behind you, you tend to forget all the hassles. Because it is a point of singular power, and it has been so for millennia: historian Lokesh Chandra notes that it was once a temple to both Shiva and the Avalokiteswara Padmapani (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) simultaneously, as described by the Buddhist monk Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) who visited some 1,400 years ago and considered it already an ancient temple. (See my old article on its history here.)

The criminal neglect of the temple is mostly due to state hostility and partly to sheer incompetence. Kerala alternatively has Communist-led and Congress-led governments, which for practical purposes means a Communist/Muslim coalition or a Christian/Muslim coalition. The Hindu vote is fragmented and divided, to the extent that the BJP is yet to have a single MP from the state, although O. Rajagopal almost unseated Shashi Tharoor in Trivandrum last May. Modi appeals to the OBC Ezhavas (the mainstay of the Communists) and to the SC Pulayas; and this may lead to some electoral realignments, and that is surely part of his calculations.

There is a monstrous entity called the ‘Devaswom Board’ that controls all Hindu temples (and note please: only Hindu temples, as Christian and Muslim places of worship are entirely free of control or even audit or tax. I read a ruling by an Income Tax appellate court that Hinduism is a way of life, not a religion, and therefore Hindu temples are not tax-exempt!)

In fact, in an allegedly secular state, there should be separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’, that is, the government should not interfere in religion. That is true for Christians and Muslims: the State leaves them alone to do whatever they want with their churches and mosques. But in the case of Hindus, the government expropriates whatever Hindu temples have. The Devaswom Board is a violation of the constitutional principles of equality before the law and freedom of religion.

This is the principal reason Hindu temples are in trouble in Kerala, as the Devaswom Board, with atheists and Communists often as board members, acts as a mechanism to commingle the revenues of temples with government revenue. In other words, the Devaswom Board, and thus the Kerala government, steal the money that pilgrims donate to Sabarimala (and other large temples like Guruvayur). No more than 5 percent of this is spent on upkeep and maintenance and infrastructure development in the big temples; the rest is swallowed by the state treasury.

Many of the smaller temples under Devaswom control are closing because there is no money spent on them at all (I read a report quoting the Travancore Manual that were some 10,000 temples in Travancore a hundred years ago; while today there are fewer than 1,500). This verges on extinction.

Temples are torn down for ‘development’. For instance, the 1,800 year-old Parthasarathy Temple in Aranmula is slated for severe downgrading for an unnecessary airport project there which is basically a land-grab. Dozens of temples were torn down to create Cochin’s airport. In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it. All this is simply abominable.

Narendra Modi greets Ganga DeviA visit by the Prime Minister should shine the spotlight on this unsavory aspect of what is quite simply apartheid against Hindus. In addition, he will see first-hand how his idea of a Swachh Bharat has a long way to go: unlike most temples in Kerala, where the abundance of water, and related habits, ensure cleanliness, poor Sabarimala is the epitome of unsanitary conditions.

The PM’s visit should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.

If the PM were to visit during the season, the difficulty in ensuring security will mean disruption for pilgrims, especially if he were to make the full trek up and down the hill, which, he, as a physically fit individual, should be able to do, unlike all other PMs so far. Still, that would be a small price to pay for the possible improvements it might bring. – FirstPost, 24 October 2014

Cross crossed-out!Socio-political history of Sabarimala – Ashok Chowgule

There is a socio-political history that needs to be mentioned about Sabrimala, which would indicate the civilisational importance of the temple. From Wikipedia, we can read: “In 1950, a fire broke out which destroyed the entire temple and it had to be reconstructed. According to the official enquiry report submitted by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, K. Kesava Menon, some Christian fundamentalists committed the arson.”

This was preceded by attempts of the Christian churches to grab properties on the way to the hill, erect crosses and shrines. The objective was to block the path to the temple and so prevent worship at the site. The local RSS units (at the time this was the only mass based Hindu organisation working at the grassroot level—VHP, of which I am a senior office bearer, was formed in 1964 by the RSS) had to mount a protest against this effort, some of which had to be done in a violent way. This was successful, and yet another pilgrimage shrine was kept free for the Hindus to be able to worship in the future.

What Wikipedia does not mention is that the vandals were instigated by the Christian churches, and DIG Kesava Menon has given names of various people involved. None of them were prosecuted.

Rajeev Srinivasan, the author of the above article, does mention the vandalism when he says: “In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it.” I recognise he did not dwell on it, so that the attention to the main point, relating to the present, is not diluted.

» Rajeev Srinivasan is a popular columnist from Tiruvananthapuram. His daytime job is that of a consultant in the software industry. He blogs at Shadow Warrior here.

Pilgrims at Sabarimala

See also

Tamil Nadu Government’s scant regard for cow protection – B. R. Haran

Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious Charitable Endowments Department

B.R. Haran“While devotees donate thousands of cows and calves in the belief that they would be taken care of well, the HR & CE Department shows scant regard to their religious sentiments and to the welfare of the hapless animals. This pathetic state of affairs prevails across the state. … Hundreds of cows have vanished from the goshala of Sri Ranganathar Temple, Srirangam, which is the first Vaishnavite Divya Kshetram and the Chief Minister’s own constituency. … A review … in November 2012 showed that 5,389 cows have vanished without a trace from the goshala attached to the famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple. They had been sent to private goshalas for maintenance, some of which exist only on paper! Neither the department had records, nor did officials have any answer!

The CowGlorious Bharatiya tradition

When it comes to religious tradition and the cultural heritage associated with it, our culture stands foremost in the world, with thousands of temples more than millennia old, a continuous legacy of pious worship by Hindus from across the world. Since ancient times, temples have been seats of learning. The temple tradition includes protection, preservation and progression of Vedas, agamas, literature, arts, architecture, gau samrakshana, music, fine arts and culture.

As we worship the deities installed inside the temple, we also worship the vrukshaas and theerthas associated with them. We also worship the vaahanaas of the deities. However, if there is one animal to which we give equal importance as that of the deity, it is the cow. To no other animal in the Hindu pantheon does the Sanatana Dharma give so much of sanctity and importance.

In ancient times, each and every temple had its own nandavanam (garden) and goshala attached to it. Devotees visiting the temples would visit the goshala and offer worship to the cows and feed them. Products like milk, komiyum (cow urine) and cow dung cakes used for daily rituals like abhishekams and homams were all taken from the goshalas. Even the vibhuti (sacred ash) was prepared from cow dung.

Degeneration caused by political instability and governmental apathy

Even while our nation was oppressed by the invaders for a thousand years, our religious tradition and cultural heritage almost remained intact and continued, though practising them was made difficult. Our worshipping pattern didn’t change at all. Our culture of worshipping the cow continued.

Although, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department was established during the British period itself in Madras, the temples of Tamil Nadu bore the brunt of loot and mismanagement only after the takeover of the endowments by the governments formed by the Dravidian parties. With the advent of the Dravidian governments since 1967, the temples have been systematically mismanaged and their wealth looted alternatively by the DMK and AIADMK governments. The temple tanks, nandavanams and the goshalas became extinct due to total disregard. Even those left are not getting the required attention from the government.

High Court’s direction

In the third week of August, the Madras High Court constituted a three member committee to investigate the status of goshalas attached with the temples under the purview of Tamil Nadu government’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Department and ordered the committee to submit its report within two months.

The High Court gave this order after hearing a petition (WP 28793 & 28794 of 2013) filed by writer and animal activist Radha Rajan. The petition said, “The Goshalas attached to the Temples under its purview are maintained by the HR&CE Department itself. However, more than a dozen cows died in the Goshala attached to the famous Thiruvannamalai Temple due to lack of sufficient food and improper maintenance”, and prayed for the constitution of a committee to look into the omissions and commissions with regards to the HR&CE Department’s maintenance of temple goshalas.

When the petition, submitted by advocate Sathish Parasaran, came up for hearing by the First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishen Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, Government Pleader S Kandaswami submitted that L Anantha Padmanaban, Joint Director of Animal Husbandry Department, has been appointed to review the maintenance of temple goshalas. Accepting the submission of the government pleader, the High Court also included Dr Sumathi of the Animal Welfare Board of India and Radha Rajan in the committee and ordered them to submit a report within two months after investigating the temple goshalas. The case was adjourned for 27 October.

Save the Cow!Background of the case

In October 2013, the media reported sudden deaths of several cows at the goshala attached to the famous Annamalaiyar Temple in Thiruvannamalai. While donating the cows, the devotees also part with a decent amount for their maintenance; moreover, the revenue of the temple is huge, running into several crores of rupees. So, it is not difficult for the HR&CE Department to manage the goshala. However, as several cows died within a short span of time, cadres of Hindu Munnani and animal lovers resorted to hunger strike in front of the temple. The district authorities pacified them and ordered an investigation by an organisation called Arunachala Animal Sanctuary and Rescue Center.

When the veterinary doctor and other officials from the centre visited the goshala situated within the temple premises, there were a total of 105 cows in it. All were donated by devotees and local people who could no longer care for them. Many of them had given Rs. 10,000 for the maintenance of the cows. After investigating the status of the goshalas and health of the cows the center gave the following report:

  • Cows and calves are seriously undernourished and have lost the ability to chew well
  • The care-taking is inadequate. There is only one caretaker and an assistant for all the animals.
  • They are fed twice a day. Each feeding in total consists of: 25 kg of oil cake, 25 kg of black gram covers, 25 kg of bran, and hay. (They never get green grass). That is enough food to sustain only 15 adult cows.
  • There is adequate space, but no protection against rain.
  • In case of acute illness, or injury, the Government Veterinary Hospital responds promptly.

While the temple revenue runs into crores, the HR&CE Department appointed only two people to attend to 105 cows and cattle feed enough for only 15 adult cows! If this is the condition of the goshala, is there any surprise in the reported deaths of cows? If this is the condition of a goshala attached to such a big temple, imagine the status of goshalas in smaller temples.

In this background, Radha Rajan filed a writ petition requesting the High Court to order the government to submit a status report with details about the number of goshalas and cows maintained therein, the status with regards to the purchase and distribution of cattle feed, hygienic condition of the goshalas, etc. She prayed for constitution of a committee to investigate the goshalas. Thus, the HC constituted the three member panel.

Seal of Tamil NaduPathetic condition across the state

While devotees donate thousands of cows and calves in the belief that they would be taken care of well, the HR&CE Department shows scant regard to their religious sentiments and to the welfare of the hapless animals. This pathetic state of affairs prevails across the state. Let us see the state of affairs in a few other temples too.

Thiruchendur Murugan TempleFive thousand cows vanished from the goshala of famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple

A review by the department’s internal auditors in November 2012 showed that 5,389 cows have vanished without a trace from the goshala attached to the famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple. They had been sent to private goshalas for maintenance, some of which exist only on paper! Neither the department had records, nor did officials have any answer!

When the number of cows donated by the devotees exceeds the limit and the goshala runs out of space, the department used to send them to private goshalas; this practice still prevails. However, it was found that the officials violated the norms, which resulted in thousands of cows missing. It was even suspected that the cows could have been sold to butchers by the officials themselves. (Dinamalar, 30 November 2012)

The HR&CE Department has “integrated goshalas” in places like Srirangam, Palani and Thiruchendur for maintenance of cows in large numbers, as most of the temple goshalas lack sufficient space. In October 2010, a building was constructed inside the integrated goshala premises at Thiruchendur for proper maintenance. Veterinary doctors were placed there for regular check up of the cattle. The department bought one Bolero jeep for inspection purposes. However, at present the integrated goshala is in a pathetic condition without even a single cow. The place stands abandoned with plants and bushes grown all over and frequented by anti-social elements. While the officials enjoy joy rides in the Bolero jeep, they didn’t bother to maintain the integrated goshala. The department wasted more than a crore of rupees on this “project”.

From temple to beef stalls, a one way ticket for cows in Srirangam

Hundreds of cows have vanished from the goshala of Sri Ranganathar Temple, Srirangam, which is the first Vishnavite Divya Kshetram and one of the most famous temples in the world. Tamil weekly Kumudam Reporter (27-12-2007) ran a detailed cover story with photographs exposing that:

As the number of cows donated by bhaktas keeps increasing, some are deliberately allowed to die without food. Then they are accounted as ‘death due to disease’ and sent for burial. They are cut into pieces at the burial ground and transported to beef stalls in and around Srirangam. On an average, two or three cows are transported in this fashion every day. Many cows do not find a place in the ‘death list’ either.

The internal audit report noted the disappearance of 105 cows in a single year, thereby confirming the weekly’s cover story. This writer is given to understand that the sad story of cows’ death continues even now in Srirangam, the Chief Minister’s own constituency.

Mysterious Pazhani goshala     

Pazhani Murugan Temple is a famous temple bringing crores of rupees revenue for the Tamil Nadu government. In 2008, the HR&CE Department established an “integrated goshala” here in 240-acres at Seemanampatti, 40 kms from Pazhani town. The main purpose was to bring cows from the various temples and maintain them with adequate food and water and vast grass lands. But, when this writer and his colleagues from Vedic Science Research Center visited the integrated goshala on 4 March 2014, there were only 9 cattle (3 bulls, 2 cows and 4 calves). Though there are 20 staff on the payroll to attend to the cattle, only one was present on the spot. The ‘Cattle Officer’ had gone out. We spent more than three hours there but the ‘Cattle Officer’ did not return.

The area suffered severe water scarcity and the locals said they couldn’t find water even at 1200 feet. We could find only two small tanks filled with water and only two mounds of haystack. There was no semblance of any other cattle feed. When asked, the available staff said that green grass and fruit skins (left over from fruits used for preparing the famous Panchamrutham) used to be brought from Pazhani, but we couldn’t see any of them.

An organisation called ‘Pazhani Temple Protection Council’ has taken up various issues concerning the temple with the concerned authorities. A member of the organisation said that hundreds of cows donated by devotees have died in the last two years. We were given to understand that the HR&CE Department charges Rs. 1000/- for maintenance of each cow donated by devotees and that 300 cows were sent to women self-help groups without proper official procedures like notification, government order, etc.

If temple authorities are sending cows donated by bhaktas to self-help groups, why should they charge the devotee Rs. 1000/- for maintenance? Are there proper accounts of the money collected and for which other purpose is the money being used? What are self-help groups doing with the cows—are they maintaining them or selling them? Does the department keep track of those cows? If the cows are being sold by the self-help groups, why is the department giving the cows to them? Has the department taken any action against groups which have sold the cows?

So many questions arise! But there was no responsible official in that 240 acres integrated goshala to give proper answers. Ironically, the department spent Rs. 1,39,27,176/- for this goshala between 2008 and 2011!

Blatant violation of rules

When the HR&CE Department sends cows to private goshalas for proper maintenance, it is supposed to follow certain rules and regulations in this aspect:

  • The department can send the cows to only goshalas which are recognized and approved by the Animal Welfare Board of India. Those private goshalas must take care of the cows properly.
  • Each and every cow must be insured in the name of either the Joint Commissioner of the department or the Executive Officer of the concerned temple. If an insured cow meets with death, 70% of the insurance amount must be given to the goshala and the balance 30% to the temple.
  • The concerned goshala must duly inform the Joint Commissioner and Executive Officer about the death of cows which are sent by the temple.
  • HR&CE Department officials must inspect the cows at the concerned goshala at least once in two months.

These rules are violated at will. The officials knowingly send the cows to unrecognized private goshalas; they do not inspect the cows and goshalas, and do not maintain proper accounts. Thus, slaughter houses serve as the final destination of these poor cows. No wonder people allege that officials are making money out of such an evil practice.

Ramanathaswamy Temple in RameshwaramPathetic condition of cows in Rameshwaram Temple

At the following YouTube link one can see the pathetic condition of cows in the goshala of the famous Rameshwaram Temple, which shows the attitude of HR&CE Department officials for cow protection.

In the first week of this month (Sept 2014) this writer visited goshalas in five famous temples in Thanjavur and Kumbakonam, and found all in sordid condition.

Thirunageswaram Shiva Temple:  This is “Raagu Stal”, one of the famous Navagraha temples. There were only 2 cows and the shelter was in a pathetic condition. One could not see any cattle feed or even a haystack! No staff was seen taking care of the cows, which were tied near the Annadhana Hall.

Oppiliyappan Venkatachalapathi Temple: Only 3 cows seen in the vegetable garden, which had very little vegetation. Only haystack was available in the badly maintained shelter. Here also no staff was seen taking care of the cows.

Sarangapani Perumal Temple: There were 20 cows (14 cows and 6 calves) and the single shelter was not sufficient to hold them. Some masonry works were going on there. HR&CE Department has solicited donations for providing cattle feed through a notice board which states that the goshala has 32 cows. Only one staff (Gopalan) was there to look after 20 cows. The cows are not given bath on daily basis, but only on auspicious days or when he has time. Only haystack was seen and no other cattle feed. Though Gopalan said the cows were fed with other cattle feed such as oil cake and bran, he showed just a little quantity of oil cake which would not be enough for a single cow. The shelter was badly maintained.

Patteeswaram Durga Temple: Total 10 cattle (6 cows and 4 calves) were there. The milk is being used for pujas and abishekams by the temple itself. The shelter is badly maintained. There is also space for nandavanam, which is not used for cultivation of green grass or other cattle feed. Two staff (Mohan and Gopal) are taking care of the cows, but only Mohan was there during the visit. One HR&CE Department staff was seen taking count of the cows. Mohan said they take counts regularly and veterinary doctors visit regularly. He said the department doesn’t arrange any cattle feed apart from the haystack.

Swamimalai Murugan Temple: Though I was given to understand that the famous Swamimalai Murugan Temple has a goshala, I couldn’t find one when I visited. On enquiry, I learnt that a goshala functioned till two years back. When I visited the place where the nandavanam and goshala existed, I saw a lot of construction underway, such as toilets, hall for annadhanam and kitchens. One building for lodging government staff was also there apart from mobile toilets.

All these five temples are huge and famous and bring lots of revenue for the government. In spite of that, the cows and goshalas are badly maintained. This status of temple goshalas after the constitution of a panel by the High Court reveals the seriousness shown by the government and the HR&CE Department not only to cow protection, but also to the Judiciary.

J. JayalalithaaDestruction of cattle wealth and government’s indifference

On one side, temple cows are allowed to die and sent to slaughter houses, on the other side lakhs of cattle are trafficked from and via Tamil Nadu for meat and leather. The Tamil Nadu government is the culprit on both counts. It can easily streamline the temple goshalas utilising the temple revenue and it can end cattle trafficking by instructing the authorities to strictly implement the transportation rules.

But the government is just not bothered and allows all sorts of violations to happen. It doesn’t seem to realize that depleting cattle wealth will have a lasting long-term negative impact upon our agriculture and environment.

Worse, there is not a single mention about cow protection in the HR&CE Department’s Policy Note for the year 2014-15 submitted under Demands (no:47) for grants in accordance with the budget. In fact, the word “cow” is not to be found in the entire Policy Note! Even during her speech under Section 110 in the Assembly, the Chief Minister made no mention about cow protection and temple goshalas, while she waxed eloquent on things such as constitution of committees, appointment of trustees, regularising encroachments, and renovations, et al.

Madras High CourtCourt of law is the last resort

In this kind of disgusting and dreadful scenario, it is heartening that the High Court understood the plight of the hapless animals and constituted a committee to investigate the temple goshalas and submit a report. It gives confidence that the High Court will give requisite directions and pronounce orders for the proper maintenance of goshalas with clear systems in place, thereby ensuring the welfare of cows. The onus lies on the government to respond positively to the High Court’s orders and directions. – Vijayvaani, 25 September 2014

References

  1. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Panel-to-Study-Condition-of-Goshalas/2014/08/21/article2390292.ece
  2. http://www.dinamalar.com/news_detail.asp?id=833228
  3. http://www.dinamalar.com/News_Detail.asp?Id=595054
  4. Tamil Weekly Kumudam Reporter dated 27-12-2007
  5. http://tinyurl.com/prw8n72 from www.vsrc.in
  6. http://cms.tn.gov.in/sites/default/files/documents/hrce_e_pn_2014_15.pdf  

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

ASI’s assault on Shankaracharya Hill in Srinagar – Sandeep Balakrishna

Shankaracharya Temple in Srinagar

Archaeological Survey of IndiaAccording to this Tribune news report, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has summarily renamed the Shankaracharya Hill to Takht-e-Suleiman overlooking the Dal Lake in Srinagar.  If this was not enough, the ASI has also presented a distorted version of the history of the Shankaracharya Hill on the tourist information plaque, a move which has justifiably outraged the Kashmiri Pandits. From that news report:

‘It is a matter of great concern that ASI has given the name Takht-e-Suleiman (Throne of Solomon) to it, replacing the earlier plaque. How have they come to this conclusion warrants an answer,’ said Predhuman K. Joseph Dhar, an expert on ancient Kashmir history. He said recently a European historian visited the place and expressed surprise over information provided to the people.

Adi Shankara BhagavatpadaOf course, there is no question that this move is politically motivated because it has no basis in history. One wonders what is the connection between Suleiman/Solomon and Adi Shankara.

Even a layman in India knows that Adi Shankara travelled in all four directions in India and established maths in prominent places in each direction. That apart, he consecrated several other major and minor temples and other places of worship like in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, Kollur in Karnataka, and in Sharada in Pak-occupied Kashmir.

Kashmir indeed has a hoary history as one of the finest centres of learning in the world. In its heydays, it attracted scholars and philosophers from all parts of India. In the annals of the Hindu tradition, Kashmir was almost synonymous with “Sharada Desha” or “Sharada Peetha” or the Pedestal of Goddess Sharada (or Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning). A conclusive evidence of this exalted status of Kashmir can best be gleaned from the famous verse in praise of Saraswati as

Namaste Sharada Devi Kashmirapuravasini
I bow to you, Goddess Sharada,
the One who Resides in the Kashmira country

This verse is so commonplace recited and heard by millions of Hindus daily across the world that hardly anybody gives a second thought at the rich historical heritage that’s embedded in it. And the credit for establishing Kashmir as the Sharada Peetha, to make it part of the nation’s cultural and spiritual DNA goes to Adi Shankara.

And it is this hoary heritage that the ASI has sought to destroy unceremoniously by renaming the Hill after some Suleiman based on a spurious history. Needless, in the process, real history has been made an unfortunate victim. From the same report,

‘While the plaque informs the people that the roof of the temple was constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1644 AD, there is no mention of King Gopadhari, who [repaired] the temple, King Lalitaditya, who renovated it several hundred years before the arrival of Islam in the 13th century, and Dogra rulers, who placed the lingam of Lord Shiva, which was destroyed at the orders of Jehangir’s wife Noor Jehan,’ said Dhar

As for the spurious history,

Talking about the name Takht-e-Suleiman, New York-based historian and author of Jesus in Kashmir: The Lost Tomb, Suzanne Olsson, said at one time Kashmir was controlled by Jews and Suleiman referred to Solomon, King of Israel and one of the greatest Jewish rulers, known for his wisdom and riches. ‘In ancient times, there was a considerable influence of Hebrew people in Kashmir. Several places have names similar to Jewish places. But historically, it is referred to as Shankaracharya Hill,’ Olsson said.

Sue OlssonOne wonders whether Suzanne Olsson even understands how she contradicts her own assertion. If Jews had indeed controlled Kashmir, why don’t we have a single piece of evidence to show for it? And second, she doesn’t quite explain why despite the Jewish control, the Hill was revered and renowned as the Shankaracharya Hill? And why doesn’t Rajatarangini, the most definitive account of Kashmir’s history mention the presence–let alone control–of Jews even once? And why haven’t the galaxy of scholars and litterateurs from Kashmir–Kalhana, Abhinavagupta, Anandavardhana, Kshemendra, et al–mention Jewish influence? The truth is the Suzanne Olsson happens to be the latest purveyor of the phony theory that Jesus visited/lived in Kashmir. Two definitive sources are sufficient to puncture Suzanne Olsson’s motivated claim about Jesus in Kashmir. The first is by the redoubtable Koenraad Elst, and the second by a Buddhist monk and scholar named Shravasti Dhammika who takes a close look into various Suzanne Olssonsesque myths about Jesus’ visit and stay in India.

St. ThomasAll kinds of scholars making all kinds of fantastic assertions have existed since time immemorial. However, it is regrettable that the ASI, a body of the Government of India, chose to put out one such fantastic claim as the official history of a place based purely on political consideration. This does disservice not just to Hindus but to the nation’s precious heritage as a whole. More importantly, it is a dangerous portent. As we’ve seen in the case of the St. Thomas Church of Mylapore how an existing Hindu place of worship was appropriated by Christian missionaries through deceit and declared as one of the sites of Christian piety.

Given this, what is the guarantee that the “Takht-e-Suleiman” will not become a dargah or mosque some time in the near or distant future and thereby erase another living place of Hindu heritage permanently? – India Facts, September 27, 2013

» Sandeep Balakrishna is the administrator of the IndiaFacts website. 

» Those who wish to sign a petition objecting to the change of name of Shankaracharya Hill to Takht-e-Suleiman can do so HERE

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.

See also

The Divine Pot – Devdutt Pattanaik

Cooking rice porridge for the Gods

Surya DevaThe pot is a great invention. Without the pot, we would still be going to water bodies like rivers and ponds to hydrate ourselves as and when we feel thirsty. Thanks to the pot, we can get the water into our homes and store it for future use no crocodiles lurking beneath the water, no fear of a wild animal getting provoked into attack. The pot is a symbol of human civilisation.

Ancient Indians revered the pot. It was the symbol of the womb, the garbha, for it sustained human life. The pot was equated with the mother; it was a symbol of divinity. A pot or kalash filled with water and sprouts and crowned with green leaves and fruits became the symbol of abundance and good fortune. It was worshipped over 3,000 years ago. It is still being worshipped today.

The Gods, the ancients believed, had a pot that overflowed with grain and gold. It was called the akshaya patra. They also had a pot brimming with amrit, the nectar of immortality. Humans had neither. But humans included women who created and nurtured life, ensuring the continuation of the species. Women were therefore a combination of akshya patra and amrit, holding in their bodies the Water pots and veiled Rajastani women.promise of abundance and immortality for the family. Without a woman, a family perished. The family tree withered.

In ancient times women were clearly regarded as being more valuable than men. The survival of a tribe depended not on the number of men it had but on the strength of its women. So in the early days, women were given the choice to choose husbands. The foremost form of wedding was considered to be one where the father gave his daughter to another family. It was a gift of akshaya patra and amrit.

While the forest was equated with the wild Goddess, the field was equated with the domesticated Goddess. Forest was woman, field was wife. Forest was water in the pond, field was water in a pot. Field was the womb that sustained a village. It was worshipped as humanity’s akshaya patra and amrit, bringing forth prosperity year after year. The domestication of the earth, the transformation of the woman into home-maker, the moulding of clay into a pot, is the result of human intervention, an imposition on nature’s freedom, a sacrifice to ensure the birth of civilisation, to ensure perpetuation and survival.

Gujarati Garba DancersIn autumn, as the rains recede and crops are harvested, three things come together on nine nights: the pot, the woman and the field. In the centre of the field, the pot is placed filled with water and sprouts, and around it women dance in circular formation. They bend down and clap as they thank the earth and cosmos and energise it with their happiness. This is garbo, the dance of the earth-womb. The circular formation of the dance is a reminder of the horizon, the rim of the divine pot, the world we live in. We live in a cosmic womb, just as deities in temples are enshrined in the garba griha or sanctum sanctorum, a detail endorsed by the metal pots placed on top of the temple dome.  – Times of India, Chennai, Oct. 15, 2010

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