The SC judgment and court Proceedings on two cases Natraja Temple Vs TN Government and Jagannath Temple Puri Vs Orissa Government recorded its displeasure and made scathing observations as to why the Government is so keen to administer the temple. The Learned Judge S A Bobde and S A Nazeer could not have used better sober words to communicate to Government its displeasure and constitutional illegality, Yet nothing changed till date.

Hindu temples house huge Land assets, daily donation, Hundi collection and Gold deposits in the name of God. And lobby surrounding the Government official having vested interest are holding eye on this wealth. Untold and unrecorded plunder of assets and wealth has already happened.

Perhaps Sleeping Hindu society does not deserve better than this.

How has this all started? While Christian Muslim and Sikh have been allowed to manage their own religious places, Hindu are not? While others do not have to pay any Taxes, Hindu religious places have to pay taxes? While others can run their financial resources, temples are not permitted to manage their financial assets?

Which article of Government prevents Hindu from running its temple? How has this emerged?  

It all started like this.

1817– Driven by missionary zeal, the British introduced “The Madras Regulation VII of 1817”. The sole purpose of this act was to break the running network of Sanskrit and Ved Education (Path-Shala), Rest house, Social welfare work, Poor food program and Cow shed (Gau-Shala) by taking over the Temple`s massive land assets and Management. It was especially designed to destabilize and take control of South Indian temples.

1840:– British ordered to appoint Temple Management Trust under the supervision of its Department of Revenue.  This Trust in turn took control and running of Temples and Mutt in India. In this process the British ensured that the traditional management of the temple and Mutt was discontinued. This new process of forming Trustee for all prominent Temples were completed in no time rather as early as 1845.

1863: The religious Endowment Act :- The act was enacted to transfer both the management and the assets of all the Temple and Mutt under the British control. Under this act, limited autonomy was allowed to the Trust to look after the religious affair as per the traditional practice of the Temple. However the other social and welfare programs were not allowed to be carried on under this act. Thus scope of all the social and public welfare work including Ved-education were taken away from the ambit of Temple through this act.

1925: The Madras Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1925. The original act was drafted to take control of all the religious institutions including the Church and Mosque. But after vociferous protests from church and Mosque, they were excluded and the act was redrafted and passed only for Hindu temples. The act took the entire control of activities related to education, religious matters, traditional practices, Social welfare and management in the hands of British Government. This act transferred even the right to perform religious duties at the discretion and control of British.

1935:- Act XII of 1935: It proposed a radical change by empowering the state to take over all the Temple Management. A Hindu Religious Endowment Board was constituted and who would assume all the charges to administer temples. So we can conclude what started in 1817 was finally completed in 1935. This act brought the Temple in complete control of British.

1951 Act:-Drawing power from 1935 Act, Tamil Nadu government took control of Temple management and their assets and funds by an act passed in 1951 called the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951. Following this rest all the states in India created their Endowment Trust to manage Hindu Religious Property. This action of Govt was challenged by Shirur Math in Madras high court and later on in Supreme Court. Many provisions of 1951 Act were struck down then. Yet the Government did not feel it appropriate to revisit the spirit of the act.

1959 Act: With some amendment to the 1951 Act another Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act was passed in 1959. The legislation was piloted by the Congress government at that point of time.  This act brought the Temple Management Trust/ Mutt in complete control of Government for its appointment action, removal and continuance. The new act 1959 abolished the Hindu Religious Endowments Board and transferred its authority to the Hindu religious and charitable endowments department of the government headed by a commissioner.

Thus a Government commission took complete control of Hindu Temple, however no such control was designed for Christian and Muslim institution in India. Thus most of the southern states have now a minister in-charge of Hindu religious and charitable endowments.

For example, Today Kerala has four Devaswom boards namely, 

1-    Guruvayur, 2- Malabar, 3- Travancore and 4- Cochin.

The Government of the day controls all the temple Assets, Donation, Hundi, financial deposits, rent and revenue. It also controls management, its functioning and day to day affairs.

Daily functioning of Government Control: –

All Hundi collections/ Revenue are directed to be deposited in the designated temple bank account. The indicative control of the assets and utilization are as under.

·        Nearly 70 percent of Temple income is used for non- temple Government Schemes.

·        Nearly 25 % is spent in administrative expenses of Temple.

·        And less than 5% is spent on events related to religious practice and Puja.

·        No money is made available for conducting Ved Education – Gau Shala or preaching Sanatan religion and practice.

·        If a temple is not able to spend at least 85% of its collection, an Unspent amount is subjected to tax as per Income tax rule governing Trust.

Example of some of the plunders of Asset that had happened across the India:–

·        “Between 1986 and 2005 Tamil Nadu temples ‘lost’ 47,000 acres of land and currently more than 10 million square feet of valuable sites belonging to Hindu Temples in Tamil Nadu are under encroachment.”

·        AP– 2020- Over 1 Lac Acre of Temple has been encroached upon and no functionary has looked after.

·        “In Tamil Nadu temples have over 478,000 plus acres of land, 2.44 cr sq feet of property for which the TN HR & CE department gets only Rs 58 crs p.a. In reality income from all temples, mutts would, on a conservative basis generate Rs 6,000 cr p.a.”

·        Religious practice, priesthood, Idol, antique structure are all subject to plunder and destruction under the government control.

The unfortunate and willful plunder of Temple assets has continued since the days of Mughal and British. Post-Independence also nothing changed. Infect as late as 2019, despite regular adverse observations made by the Supreme Court, Uttarkhand Govt went ahead to control Chardham Board. Various Court Judgments have stressed the need of forming an independent Management Committee or Temple Charter but nothing has materialized so far.

Even Hindu Society Saint and Social Leaders are not unanimous. They lack vision and farsightedness in themselves to manage their own temple. The despair and plight of Hindu Temple is still continuing. No one else but ourselves has to take the blame.

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