Let’s respect our temples first, then argue about the wealth
Would we have given two hoots about this temple if the treasure was not found? Do we deserve or even merit such money from religious institutions considering how we treat them?
The treasure found at the Lord Padmanabaswamy temple has amazed all sections of society. “I am not surprised. The Travancore Kings were known to be very wealthy and I presume they had kept this here to hide it from the British”, said my octogenarian grandmother emphatically.
Let’s get the facts straight first:
The treasure in the temple right now is almost worth 1,000,000 crores. (That’s almost equivalent to what former telecom minister A. Raja looted from the country, and three times the size of Kerala's deficit). It's run by a trust appointed by the lineage of the Travancore royalty who have been in charge of maintaining the temple all this while. The possessions include a gold sheaf weighing 500 kg, an 18 foot gold chain, 36 kg golden veil and a plethora of ornaments.
The buzz from media and readers alike is what one can do with such massive amounts of wealth. And of course, there are different perspectives. But, who are we to actually take a call on what to do with it? Do we deserve it or merit such money from religious institutions, considering how we treat them?
I don’t think so and here’s why:
First, Would we have given two hoots about the temple if the treasure was not found? Have we in the past really protected, or taken pride in temple architecture, history or heritage for us now to over-reach and claim a temple’s wealth be put to better use?
Without the treasure, the temple would just have been one among many poorly maintained run of the mill old monuments.
If you take a broader look at most ancient temples in Southern India, most of them are in bad shape. Take the case of the Srikalahsti Gopuram collapse in 2010 in Chettore, Nellore for instance. This 15th century tower was one of the holiest structures in modern India and was worshipped by millions of devotees. The Gopuram collapse was attributed to poor maintenance by government authorities in charge of the temple. Interestingly, a group of researchers from IIT Madras had earlier warned of the state of the gopuram, and criticized the maintenance of the temple. This warning was clearly ignored. In most temples, the exterior structures are barely maintained and the interiors are holding out only because of the strength of the original structures. The prime reason for this lack of maintenance is never the lack of funds.
In most states in India, temples come under government supervision. While there are some major temples that are well taken care of (like the Tirupathi Devastanam), most of the less popular but ancient temples are barely given any sort of attention in terms of maintenance. The money poured in by millions of devotees is lost in the corrupt mire of trustees and board members who ultimately report to a corrupt bureaucrat. The money is never really used for the welfare of the temple. Instead what happens is that the money goes into the pocket of the politician.
Closer to home, let’s step back and think of our local temple. Do you remember the cute, familiar, much smaller temple around the corner? Do you also remember the last time you went and looked at your feet and wondered how you would walk through all that filth?
If you’re a frequent temple-goer, very soon you will also realize that there is a pecking order, yes even in front of god. If you’re a well-known person or a 'VIP', chances are you will get a darshan far sooner than most. You could also most likely cut the queue!
But back to the treasure at Padmanbhaswamy.
Let’s just say this: yes, 100,000 crore is a lot of money. Yes, we can do a lot with it. Yes, it shouldn’t be languishing without being invested, even the interest will help, BUT please let’s show temples some respect before making plans for the money.
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