Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Saving Hindu Temples - 1

In the last few years there have been thousands of people seeking Hindu temples to be freed from govt control in various states. The issue of govt control is more severe in some states which have temples that get lucrative income by way of donations. Other than that, there is also regular cries for help for ancient temples and their maintenance. There aren’t many religious structures that can match the beauty of ancient Hindu temples with their intricate design, architectural grandeur and astonishing geometry. Many on Social Media and elsewhere have written tomes on these temples with stunning images and the need to get them out of govt control and restore them to management by a Trust of devotees. I don’t need to add to this vast resource that is already made available by Hindus online.

These demands for freeing temples from govt control had become shriller and more widespread after Narendra Modi became PM. This, because many BJP supporters believe that Modi is the “Hindu Hriday Samrat” that he was nicknamed as when he was Gujarat CM. To tell you the blunt truth, neither ModiSarkar nor any other govt is going to bother about freeing temples from govt control. There are reasons for why ModiSarkar won’t act on this and there are quite a lot of hurdles too. There is a big difference between Modi being in Gujarat and Modi being in Delhi. Gujarat is dominated by Hindus. People are depending on Modi to act on this because they are unable to dissect his behaviour and thinking on temples and the pursuit of religion. Therefore, it is important that we understand Modi’s behaviour in Gujarat in relation to temples and his religious pursuits.

Firstly, you would have never seen Modi wearing saffron and running around temples and meditating in caves in Gujarat. In the 12 years that he was CM of Gujarat, you will find only few pics of Modi in a temple or praying. This is mostly when there’s some function (like those of Swaminarayan) or election campaign visits to the “Becharaji” or Rajkot temples. And then he would have flagged off the annual Rath Yatra from the Jagannath temple a few times. That’s just about it. Modi’s temple-run become more aggressive only during the pre and post PM period from 2014 onward. Varanasi, Kedarnath, TN temples, Guruvayoor and so on. In Gujarat, temples are also great “businesses” for many Hindus. Take a good look at the image below:
This is bang at Subhash Chowk on Gurukul Road in Ahmedabad. This is the main road where my residence is. At the crossroads of Subhash Chowk, someone put up a small, really small, Hanuman temple 2-3 decades ago. The left image is the closest replica of what the negligible temple looked like because I cannot produce that image anymore but I have seen it for years. It was a small temple no more than 3 feet in height and 2 feet wide. You would have seen such small temples in many gullies and corners or even in households in India. On the right is what this “illegal” temple looks like today. It occupies the entire footbath for nearly 70 feet, it has turned into full-fledged temple with a small office, water tank and the whole works. The whole thing is illegal, it obstructs traffic every day and creates a parking disaster, particularly on Saturdays when devotees throng Hanuman temples all across Gujarat. CM Modi demolished over 80 illegal or encroaching temples in Gandhinagar in 2008 but missed this one because there was road construction work going on here:
These 80 are actually only a part of the 312 temples around the Gandhinagar region that were reportedly illegal. As the temple grows in size, even illegally, the Trust or Party that runs it earns money in crores annually. Apart from hundreds of such temples around Ahmedabad, there are dozens of prominent ones on the SG Highway (Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar). There are replica temples of Vaishno Devi, Ambaji Mata and there is Iscon too. All these are legal and devotees flock to them daily and weekends see large crowds. In the last two decades, many residential societies in Gujarat have a pre-built temple inside the society complex itself so that “daily-temple-goers” need not go far and do their darshan just before they leave for work.

There are many prominent temples in Gujarat and it’s a religious-tourists paradise. Most of them are NOT under Govt control. Which is why you will never hear such noises from Gujarat about govt control. The famous Somnath temple is a Trust headed by former CM Keshubhai Patel (Advani, Modi are managing trustees too), Palitana hills of temples are run by Jain Trusts, Girnar hills temples are run by Jain and Hindu Trusts. The only prominent and lucrative temple that is under govt control is the famous Ambaji temple at Ambaji. This is the most revered temple in Gujarat and most lucrative only next to Somnath. However, all the major temples of Gujarat are well-managed, well laid out for traffic, smooth flow of devotees and security in the current state of affairs. Hindus in the rest of India complain about the pittance that our priests and mahants are paid as salaries. But you will be surprised how much Ambaji priests are paid and this is a figure from 2015:
I am sure, currently the figure would hover around 60-70 lakhs though I have no reference for it. Other than these temples, there are grand Swaminarayan temples all over Gujarat. Akshardham at Gandhinagar being the most famous among them. These Swaminarayan temples are also managed by their own Trusts. Members of Swaminarayan groups donate heavily each year. They have their facilities for devotees all across the world. Their members can still get a room at their swanky guest house at Vile Parle, Mumbai (near the airport) for less than 1000/- with all meals and facilities included. I have been there, that’s how I know. And their meals are fit for a king with lots of ghee, sweets and endless supply of buttermilk. Like Gurudwaras do, if you are a Swamiaryania, you can go anywhere in the world where they are located and they will accommodate you, help you, take care of your family if you run into any kind of problem.

The only involvement of the Gujarat govt in temples (other than management of Ambaji temple) is their service to devotees and tourists under an apex body called “Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board”. This board doesn’t manage any temples but provides all kinds of services for the visitors like travel, accommodation, itinerary planning, dos and don’ts, health precautions and the whole works. This is a great service that the Gujarat govt site provides without being involved in any temple. Hindus in Gujarat don’t need govt for anything (other than the usual public services). They can manage their lives and their temples very well and have enough resources to do so. Therefore, CM Modi had to turn his attention to those who do need govt support to maintain their religious or sacred monuments. One such monument is the Sarkhej Roza in Ahmedabad which is near the Juhapura area (The biggest Muslim ghetto in India):
ModiSarkar of Gujarat spent over 3 crores to renovate and restore the beauty of Sarkhej Roza in addition to two other monuments of Muslim importance. For 5 years in Gujarat ModiSarkar had organised annual music festivals at Sarkhej Roza. Obviously, in awe of his chest-thumping Hindutva image, people outside Gujarat are not really aware of all this. However, these Muslim monuments are important part of history and the money is well spent and Modi deserves applause for it. Now that he is on his second term in Delhi, much of the renovation news comes in the form of illumination of Humanyun’s tomb or Qutub Minar. These are prominently in the news but there might be others too. And because of this penchant for glorifying tombs of Mughal invaders Hindus keep asking questions of Modi’s commitment on Hindu temples.

Modi’s approach to temples is nothing to brag about. He visits a few temples, wears all-saffron, does intense puja or cave-meditation which the cameras devotedly relay. It thrills many Hindus but in reality, means NOTHING. At best it might promote some temples as tourist destinations or rally Hindu pride for votes. In October 2013 Modi made an atrociously horrible statement out of sheer lack of presence of mind. In some meeting he stated “Devalaya se pehle shauchalaya”. This was a repeat of Congi Jairam Ramesh’s statement. I find it revolting to hear such comparisons. Nobody asks govts to build temples. If toilets are your priority and citizens too should make it so then it can be said more honourably without having to link temples merely to “rhyme” it.

I slammed him very severely for this statement and received a lot of abuses from the “Bhakts” then. In a later post I asked, if Sauchalayas are such a priority Modi could have well curtailed the extent of Sabarmati Riverfront because nobody was demanding that riverfront. The riverfront is a great achievement but is typical of politicians to spend on “beauty” and then whine about lack of toilets. Modi never made that statement again except in one conference after becoming PM where he joked how he was slammed for making that statement. I am sure for all the chest he has; Modi would never dare to say “Masjid se pehle Mutralaya”. Even in these campaign type statements, it’s the Hindu temples that are degraded.

This first part is like a prologue and we will get further into understanding why ModiSarkar or no govt will ever free Hindu temples from govt and never make any rules for mosques or churches. It is an intriguing and complex mess that only Hindus can solve and not any govt.

To be continued

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  1. An excellent n timely wake up call. It is time to expose hypocrisy of BJP.

  2. Modi needs to see himself in mirror and there is none to show it other the MC. This is somewhere we Hindus are lacking... Never Q The Govt bze ultimately they'll appease the minority. As you said be a Boss.

  3. WAiting for such a piece from Ravinar.....waiting for more on this topic..Brilliant

  4. I have a plot of land abetting a public park, and 20 years back, a few of the residents put a Ganesha idol in tjat place. We appointed a priest to come and do arthi everyday. Now the temple has become huge gobbling up good part of the civic amenity park, and due to political patronage got it regularised. The finances are managed by a group. Temple is the best business, all are happy and the cash registers ring.

  5. You will get answer for this WHY? only when you visit Temples in Southern state..

    Caste angle is involved in it..

    Recently I and wife visited Dwarka and Somnath..and have been vusiting temples in South..found that both temple manage crowd better than Temples in South..

    Visit it once you will start hating priests community...

  6. Masjid se pehle Mutralaya” ! I have been asking this on every advertisement on population control , women welfare, 3T/4W vaccination , traffic offence, criminals , education . Not One pic ever showing Muslims - even symbolic This is wrong, this is the right one . 80/20 rule. 20 % destroying the rest of 80 % . Not one action yet . Modi has failed to even motivate his colleagues to talk about the ills . Smriti Irani heading family welfare & gadkari heading roads . Still we find messages only to hindus . Not one film in any area shows madrassas/masjids breeding terrorists but many showing temples producing criminals . can anything be done about it ?


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