Who is the owner of the temple?
A question from WhatsApp reader: “Uday, the chief minister of Kerala said that the government-controlled Devaswom Board is the owner of the temples. But the devotees say that temples belong to them and some learnt people said temple is owed by the deity. Can you throw some light on this subject?”
The answer cannot be provided in black and white – it is rather complicated. I have written about the Hindu temples in my book Why Am I a Hindu? Obviously you haven’t read it. If we don’t understand the actual concepts, everything may appear like contradictory. So I will try to explain here.
A temple is NOT a religious institution like Church or Mosque. The original purpose of the Temple was NOT for public worship. Unbelievable, but true.
Did you know that idol of the deity was made up of certain alloys (specific metallic combination) – panchaloha (five metals), sapthaloha (seven metals) and navaloha (nine metals). That had some sort of chemical properties as well as energy remittance. This was maintained by an expert person (probably a priest) using specific frequency Vedic chants (sound energy), specific mode of arathi (heat energy) at regular interval and deepam (light energy).
However, there is no point in explaining the science behind it, as the whole thing is a lost art now. I don’t know if any of today’s priests even know about it. And most of those original idols are in the showcase of rich foreigners.
A temple was built for the deity who was the actual owner of the village or the country. In most places, the entire wealth of the village was stored in the temple, not in the treasury of the King. The temple was known as “devalaya” (abode of the god).
If you approach a temple with the concept of Semitic ideals, you won’t understand this. The Church and Mosques are “prathanalaya” (prayer hall). Followers of Semitic religions don’t believe in idol worship as their Gods are up in the heaven. Hindus do believe that the idol has divine power and consider it as a representation of God.
The properties of the temple and surrounding places were known as “devaswam” (meaning deva=deity and svam = his/hers). Obviously the temple and its wealth belong to deity only.
According to Hindu economic fundamentals, the purpose of temple was to store the wealth for their descendants (like the honeycomb) and act as the nerve center of the village. The King’s job was to rule the village on-behalf-of the deity. Kings were called as “dasa” (servant) of the deity. Public were NOT allowed to go in. Only a priest who can follow some strict tradition (tantric or pauranic) and untouchably can go inside sanctum sanctorum as the deities to maintain those chemical and energy processes related to the specific deity in a specific alloy combination.
If you go to any traditional temples, you can see only two or three people can stand in front of the door of sanctum sanctorum. No place for a crowd. Obviously, except 2-3 people in the village, nobody was allowed to go in. (Don’t compare the modern marble paved temples with plaster of paris idols with those ancient temples. We know most of those temples were destroyed by invaders, so you may not see ancient temples in places in North India).
All basic rituals of Hindu Dharma ( the shodasha samskara or 16 sacraments) have nothing to do with temple. Hindus did all offerings (pooja) at home, probably a small room for their favourite or family deity. Temple visit was NEVER mandatory in Hindu Dharma. There is no single ritual in Vedic tradition that is related to a temple.
Clearly, it is not a place of prayer or worship. It had many other functions to sustain the village, its culture and economy. Temple is strictly a private property, owned by the deity. Yes, the devotees (believing public) were allowed to go there, but stand outside the sanctum santorum and offer prayers. Please remember Hindu Dharma includes atheists too, they may not go to temple. So, devalaya = deity owned only.
For example, my great grandfather along with other community members in my village built my village temple for the deity Lakshmi Narasimha. In fact all the community members those times worked hard and invested whatever they had – money, time, effort, health to build that temple. In fact they skipped even eating food to save money for the temple and got involved in physical labour too. So whom does this temple belong to? The descendants of those devotees, right? Same is the case of all temples.
Your house belongs to you. But in emergency, the government can take it over. So, the government can take over temple too.
But wait, according to Indian law, a Hindu deity is a perpetual minor. The trustees and admins are guardians only. So nobody can legally sell or transact any of the temple properties.
Since temples were wealthy, they have been easy target of the foreign invaders and robbers. That’s why lakhs of temples in India were ransacked and destroyed by looters.
Our desi looters in guise of politicians follow the suit as they cannot legally do it. So, today the temples are targeted by desi looters aka politicians. Legally they can’t. So they use the government.
The sad part of it is that the government doesn’t take care of the rituals and precedence of the temples. They don’t understand the distinct and different nature of each temple and trying to standardize and generalize temples. Each temple is uniquely different – you cannot even compare. But the government puts all temple in the same tag. This is the huge mistake.
However, if the government doesn’t control it, what will happen then? Well, it can also go into the hands of local goon, goonda or mafia chief. So, we have to ensure that the temple is being controlled by those who follow Sanatan Dharma earnestly and nobody else. Then only we can bring back the real power of temple-based cultural life style!
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Book: Why Am I a Hindu (The Science of Sanatan Dharma). For kindle and international paperback, please visit: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9PAGLT
For Indian paperback (print) edition only: http://prachodayat.org/why-am-i-a-hindu/