In India, there are thousands of religious places and some of them are the richest by all means. There was always an approach that rich temples of India should be taken over by the state governments and the accumulated fund must be utilised for the nation building. Well, the religious institutions are not only restricted to temples, but there are also many mosques and churches in India that are hugely funded by different countries for the betterment of their own communities. If all these religious places come together and think of helping the state governments, the nation would not be needing loans from the World Bank. However, unfortunately, all these religious institutions are funding towards politics and riots more promptly than rendering help in development. Not all are same, there are many temples and trusts which are working towards the betterment of mankind, but against the riches they earned, the charity they do is very lopsided.
If you remember, Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government borrowed Rs 500 crore from Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST) to complete Nilwande irrigation project. The interest-free loan has been secured to complete the pending work in the irrigation project, which will provide drinking water for Ahmednagar district. The move was extraordinary, as no state corporation has been granted an interest-free loan before. The trust was supposed to release Rs 500 crore for the irrigation project worth Rs 1,200 crore. The work has been long pending on the project. As per reports, more than 70,000 devotees visit the Shirdi temple every day and the number balloons to 3.5 lakh during festival season. Some regions in the Ahmednagar district face acute shortage of water and the project will benefit all tehsils in the district. Akole, Sangamner, Rahuri, Kopargaon, Shirdi, and other villages will be benefitted once the project is completed. However, there is no official follow up or reports regarding the same. The work is executed or not, how much fund is received by the state government, and where it is spent, no one has any record. Still, as a devotee and as a citizen, I personally felt good about the entire episode. This is what is expected from the other temples, too.
In India, there are two main types of temples. Small and Medium Temples are maintained by the people of the village or by private management trust. Large Temples are maintained by HR and CE department. The money that you put in “Hundi” goes for God’s purpose. The trust maintains the whole temple with this “Hundi” (treasure) money. Maintaining a temple is not an easy task. Everyday flowers, prasadam, ritual items, clothes for god have to be purchased. Every fortnight, at least one or two festivals come and they have to distribute the money for it. Many offer huge donations and gold that is surplus amount and that amount piles up and becomes permeate asset value of the Temple trust.
For famous temples Like Tirupati, normally money, gold, and maintenance are not at all a problem. Our ancient Kings and Jamindars have granted lands for maintenance. So, money also comes from these sources. Temple inscriptions have this evidence. Most of the large temples are maintained by big trusts and HR department. However, they don’t carry out all the rituals and only important ones are carried out. Again, they can distribute the money easily as they are maintaining many temples and they can direct the money from one famous temple to a simpler one. What happens to the huge donations received by any NGO from charitable and gullible foreigners, same fate can be attributed to all temples that get non-taxable and uncountable money in terms of cash and kind like gold, diamond, and other ornaments, which the devotees pour on their God as reciprocity and reverence! If you take some of the richest temples, their annual income might be a staggering amount that could be understood only in terms of billions of dollars or pounds. The Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple is probably the richest in the whole world, which takes the credit of having crossed assets worth nearly Rs 20 billion found in one out of four treasures, followed by Tirupati Venkatachalapathi earning Rs 2 crore per day and the annual income crossing around Rs 700 crores. The income of Vaishnava Devi also crosses around Rs 600 crores, whereas the much talked Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple trailing behind to Rs 60-70 crores per year. Shirdi Baba, who was not given proper clothes, roti, and buttermilk while alive, is getting around Rs 400 crore per year, revealing the bitter truth how a phantom of a man is more powerful than the actual man in blood and flesh.
Though each temple has its own auditing system, there is no accountability for them either to an external agency or government. Probably, God thinks the money that is being swindled in His name is nothing compared to the money that is laundered and maneuvered by selfish and dishonest politicians in exploiting the BPL Indians. The beauty is to be registered into your brain here is that the devotee who donates to his beloved God does not care about the fate of his money that he put in “Hundi”.
In fact, it is interesting to hear from some great brains of India if such huge dead wealth is deposited in RBI, the Indian Rs 1 would demand $100, just reversing the current trend. Since they are good and genuine people, they want to utilise holy money but not to unearth black money hidden with bad people.
The recent move of depositing the excess gold/cash with RBI for which interest can be gained and gold can also be taken back after some lock-in time is to be utilised by the concerned temples, especially those which do not know what to do with such huge quantum of Gold. In such a situation, the temples can loan that amount to respective governments and help towards same human kinds who are the donors and devotees of the temple.
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