Many States, including Tamil Nadu, have the Hindu temples under their control. The TN Government, through the HR & CE Ministry is controlling the temples and the temple properties in the name of auction is being given at less than market rate to people close to the power corridors. Moreover every now and then and whenever an opportunity arise, the agnostic and or atheistic elements are up with their views against the tradition poke their nose into the Hindu temple affairs and the age old practices.
There are thousand of temples in the State with huge movable and immovable properties. The lands, the Gold, cash, other properties donated by the devotees are under the disposal of the Government. In addition to this there are income from immovable properties such as rent. The estimated revenue from the immovable properties in Tamil Nadu alone is around 10000 Crore whereas the actual income is not even 25%.
In addition to this there are also issues like building new Hindu temples as well as other religious structures.
Many devotees of Hindu religion are of the view that the Hindu temples must be handed over to Hindus. There are few suggestions such as handing over them to the same family which used to manage the temple affairs some 100 years back. Another suggestion is to hand over the temples to religious leaders.
We believe that the Government need not have to get out the temple management immediately. But they have absolutely no role in the pooja and other religious rituals being followed by temples.
What is the solution? The Government should form an apex body consisting of 50% members from Hindu religious leaders, 30% from the family trustees and or trustworthy individuals with prescribed qualifications and the remaining 20% nominated by the Government. For individual temples the religious leaders and addenams can guide them with 50-50 control between the religious leaders group and the temple authorities that includes the temple trustees and the priests.
The Government should have the control of immovable and movable properties only to maintain them, account for it. The expenses from the income from the temple properties must be spent only for causes connected with the Religion such as Annadhaanam, cultural programs, veda classes, tamil prabhandham classes, etc., In exceptional circumstance portion of the funds may also be used for community health care.
The religious leaders together with the priests will decide the pooja and other rituals. The temples must be allowed to have a portion of the lands for their own use such as housing the priests and other servants of the temple, creating a nandavanam (Flowers, Vegetables & Fruits) for the use of the temple and the temple employees. The income from the bigger temples can also be used for maintaining the smaller lesser income temples.
Before doing this it is better to have special law banning building new temples as well other religious structures. First priority to be accorded to temples built 50 years or 30 years back. Old temples such as Tanjor Big Temple, Srirangam Temple, etc., to be placed on Level 1. This level should be based on the age of the temples.
Second which ever temple built within the previous 30 years and which are hindrances to traffic and or any other infrastructure development can be demolished subject to relocating the deity to a nearest old temple with the permission of the religious leaders following the rituals. The priest in the being demolished temples to be provided with a job in any other temple.
By prohibiting building new temples and or any other religious buildings of any other religion, the Government can – in consultation with the religious leaders and after assessing the sentiments of the people – can provide permission for the same. Private temples within the premises of an individuals can be allowed subject to the condition that no outsider should be allowed for regular pooja.
The properties – both immovable and movable – to be taken stock and the records to updated with the Court and also on the website. The temple priests and the religious leaders to be allowed to spend the money for religious reasons and the Government role will be to monitor whether the money is spent only for the right purpose.
In the due course, the Government can give the full control to the religious leaders & temple authorities and accounts can be audited like any other commercial establishment.