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!