Tuesday, October 31, 2006

what's wrong with our temples?

hi folks!

i'm back after my vacation - which was a mix of visiting friends, some family functions and a vacation. (check out the pics at picasaweb.google.com/ckguruprasad/TripToKumbakonamSwamimalai)

after visiting some dear friends in chennai, we joined a bus-load of relatives for some serious temple-hopping to celebrate niru's mama's sashtiapatha purthi (60th birthday celebrations). we started with the shiva temple at chidambaram (www.indiantemples.com/Tamilnadu/chidchid.html) followed by the vaitheeswaran temple along the chennai-mayavaram route (www.vaitheeswarankoil.org/index.htm). this was then followed by the amritaghateswar-abirami temple at tirukkadaiyur (www.chennaionline.com/toursntravel/placesofworship/thirukadaiyur.asp) where people perform their 60th, 70th and 80th birthday celebrations. we then finally went to the karuvazhakarai amman temple which is near mayiladuthurai.

contrary to my belief, we had a great time visiting these temples. and we had loads of fun travelling to these places, mainly because of the intense card games in the last few rows of the bus!

but there was one thing which kept bothering me throughout the trip. some of the temples we visited, especially the old, large, grand ones were very poorly maintained. they were smelly and dirty and the priests and workers did not seem to be in the least bit bothered about the state of affairs all around them. the only enterprise and enthusiasm they demonstrated was when they could spot some opportunity to make some additional income from the visitors and pilgrims.

and these temples rake in crores of rupees every year through donations, hundi collections, pooja fees, etc. but most of this money is apparently siphoned off by the corrupt officials on the boards of the temple and devaswom trusts, most of which are government controlled. a paltry amount makes its way back to the actual running of the temples.

and then i paused to think. correct me if i am wrong, but i have not come across a single old/big/important church, mosque, gurudwara or fire-temple which is treated so shabbily and maintained so poorly. i am not being communal here, but i wonder why is there such a stark difference? is it sheer indifference or apathy among the hindu populace? or is it because of lack of a central controlling body? or lack of pride in our temples? or maybe our faith in our gods is so powerful that we believe that the gods will perform miracles and clean up the unholy mess at the right time?

but then i also think of some of the beautifully and meticulously maintained temples run by organisations like the chinmaya mission, the swaminarayan sect, etc.

and then the answer became quite obvious. the difference is the pride and devotion instilled among the care-takers and visitors of the temple by the vision of one man/group/organisation. if only some of the political leaders/ temple board trustees
could provide that vision!


Abhishek said...

Gp i completely agree with you on the appauling conditions of lot of temples which recieve crores of donations each year, as the matter of fact about 85% of all temples in the country are governed by the government and all the collections go to the govenrnment, only 15% is routed back to temple for it's maintainance etc.
However this rule does not imply to any of the minority worship places, government has a closed eye policy towards millions of dollars that come to church, which is then used to propogate and spread of christianity, no questions asked about where the funds are coming from where is it used, all in the name of minority appeasement policy of the govt, same is the case with mosque and madrassas,millions of donations from the middle east goes unnoticed and the boards are allowed to use these funds the way they like it, however with the hindu temples, this is not the case????A hindu temple need govt permission b4 using any of the funds it has recieved as donation????????? CAN WE KNOW WHY?/???....high time we start questioning such illogical policies of the govt which is in use ever since!!!!!!!!!

bindu said...

The article is good .. i agree to some extent in terms of maintenance of temple (hindus)
I think the photos were limited for the visitors to have darshan of the holy place :)

Zhen said...

If you look at the Hindu temples abroad, you will find them as well maintained as any other temples. I think the major reason is that when you are 3 out of a hundred, you try to show your best, but when you are 97 out of a hundred, the incentive to shine out dies down. This also applies to the Chinmaya Mission temples, as the incentive to maintain a polished and clean look is very high there too.
If we come up with an incentive plan which awards a figure of merit (depending upon the cleanliness, etc.) to each temple, and this figure of merit is used to decide what percentage of the temple's funds go back to the temple (the rest is taken by the govt.) everyone will run to sweep their temples!!! This can also ensure that the funds of the temple infact ARE used for the temple and not the priests. But who will bell the cat?

kc said...

hi GP,

The Government should move out of running companies / institutions and restrict itself to governance over a period of time. There should be questioning / debate in the media about this.

However, I do not agree that all temples receive money enough for their upkeep and maintenance. While a few receive crores of rupees, there are a thousands of ancient temples that do not receive enough funds. So the Government should transition their role to trusts that would be run by people belonging to the village / town. This will bring the people of the village / town return to their roots.