Saturday, August 6, 2011

Editorial, 'INDIA'S RICHEST TEMPLE' in LAW ANIMATED WORLD, Vol. 7, Part 2, No. 14 - 31 July 2011 issue

The discovery and inspection ordered by the highest court of our land, in course of the appellate proceedings of a PIL launched by a public spirited advocate, late Sri T.P. Sundararajan, first in the Kerala High Court which directed state take over of the properties of the Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Tiruvanantapuram, has revealed vast treasures stashed in the underground vaults (Kallaras) of the temple and now it is claimed on the temple website itself that it has become the richest Hindu Temple in India as well as the world, and that “As on 7th July, 2011, after completing the asset valuation of the 5 secret cellars of the temple the treasure sums to more than Rs. 100,000 crore (» US $22.3 billion) in total, without even calculating the antique value… Earlier Sree Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati … was regarded as the richest temple in India.” The Apex Court has further ordered the constitution of a committee with experts to prepare a detailed inventory with specific valuation as also to take any decision to open or not the sixth cellar which is said to be barred by a nagabandham (‘snake-knot’) the opening of which is considered calamitous unless virtuously permitted in course of a daivaprashnam (‘divine questioning’). Though not believing in superstitions, we feel that the sentiments/rituals of the worshippers have also to be catered in some way or the other but all the same that cellar has to be opened in the end and the entire assets of the Deity should be properly guarded and used for societal benefit. Much of the treasure with idols, ornaments, etc. could be shifted to the nearby museum (or a new high security museum could even be built) in the temple premises and thrown open for exhibition to the public at a reasonable fee. Any non-displayable assets could be deposited in banks to gain interest that can be used to finance sundry welfare schemes. Due care should however be taken to make appropriate laws and rules to see that temples of the majority community alone are not indiscriminately targeted for such takeovers but places of worship of any other community would also be likewise affected when their assets exceed a minimum high line to be stipulated by law §§§

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