There are 34,401 public religious institutions in Tamil Nadu. The following are the classifications based on the income of the temples:
I. Religious institutions having an income of Rs.200/- or less per annum 8,368 II. Religious institutions having an income of less than Rs.2000/- but above Rs.200/- 17,687 III. Religious institutions having an income of less than Rs.10,000/- but above Rs.2000/- 6,509 IV. Religious institutions having an income of less than Rs.50,000/- but above Rs.10,000/- 1,469 V. Religious institutions having an income of less than Rs.1 lakh but above Rs.50,000/- 166 VI. Religious institutions having an income of Rs.1 lakh and above. 202 ---------- Total : 34,401 ----------
Only the last four categories of institutions are assessable institutions and that works out to 8,346.
Now, let us see the following information as reported in the Press to understand the state of affairs of Tamil Nadu Temples:
A) In 1979, the HR & CE authorities had proposed to sell 116 grounds of the Kapaleeswarar temple in Madras for Rs.3.5 lakhs and 147 grounds of the Gangadeeswar temple, Purasawalkam, Madras for Rs.4.5 lakhs. This move was opposed by the State Temple Protection Committee.
B) Akshyalingeswar Temple at Kiwalur in Nagapatnam Taluk has 950 acres of land. 300 acress of land are cultivated by the co-operative tenants. The total arrears of rent was 5,000 bags of paddy per year and there was a total arrears of 36,000 bags of paddy in 8 years.
C) At Kodambakkam, Madras a 40 ground plot belonging to a temple was leased out on a rent of Rs.4 per year.
At Saidapet, a 40 ground plot was leased out for a pittance and the occupants had built beautiful houses. But the temple languishes for want of income.
D) With the abolition of minor Inams, the Governmnet took a decision to confer ownership rights to the tenants who were in occupation for 60 years. Later it was decided to reduce this period of enjoyment, to 30 years, with the proviso that rent for 12 years should have been paid. In such a way, 13,825 acres of temple inam lands woth Rs.2.5 crores were distributed to 5,000 persons. The Government should have collected the amount and handed it over to the temples. But the Government took the decision to write off this amount. The Government has not compensated it to the temples. A total of 2,600 religious institutions had suffered because of this decision.
E) King Raja Raja Chola had endowed lands to the Brihadeeshwara temple to fetch 80,000 bags of paddy every year. But the lands are not with the temple's control now. On October20, 1983 the priests of the Big Temple, Thanjavur stopped performing pujas as they had not been receiving their salary for several months and there was no rice or oil for "Naivedyam".
F) On 7th April, 1985 the Endowments Minister told a press conference at Madurai that the leader of a political party was occupying premises belonging to Madurai Meenakshi temple which had been sub-let to him by the original lessee. He said that when he visited Thanjavur and Trichi Districts, he found that the archakas and temple staff had not been paid their salary for several months.
G) On 26th November, 1979 the Conference of Temple Employees Association was told that out of 1,87,712 tenants of temple lands only 20% were genuine lessees and the rest were bogus intermediaries. The Association urged the Government of exempt all temple lands from lands laws, Tenancy Acts, particularly from the Fair Rent Act which reduced the temples share from 40% to 25%.
H) Kalpati temple car was sold for Rs.20,000/- to maintain the pujas.
I) On 09-03-1992, addressing a Press Conference the Kanchi Acharya commented on the increasing number of burning of temple cars, murders inside temples and thefts. The Acharya felt that the motive of all these crimials was not merely the lust for money and jewels. A new force seemed to be working from behind to check the growing "bakthi cult" in Tamil Nadu.
J) The temple management in Tamil Nadu became an issue and the public at large agitated over it. The Minister for Endowments told the assembly on 13th June, 1985 that the temples were languishing for want of income. He said that rental arrears to the temples stood at 33.35 crores up to 1984. On 25th June, 1989, the Minister for Endowments told a conferences of Tamilnadu Temple Employees Association that the dues to the temples had gone up to Rs.52 crores. He said that a number of temple properties had been taken over by private persons denying the temples their rightful income.
The Management of Temples became an election issue in Tamil Nadu in 1989. All the political parties had to include it in their election manifestoes promising reforms in temple management. On 29.12.1988, the Congress party in its election minifesto said that it favours setting up of an autonomous board consisting of scholars and religious minded leaders to administer the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and the temples coming under its purview. It also said that only devout men with character will be appointed as trustees. It will take steps to continue the pujas in the temples which are languishing for want of Income. Welfare measures will be taken for Archakas and Pujaries. It will ensure for the regular payment of their salaries etc. Smililar promises were made by the other parties like DMK, AIADMK etc. In the elections, the DMK was elected to power.
The DMK Government followed up the Election promise, which was reported as under.
The Hindu Dt.11-03-1989 Panel to study Temples Administration
"The Chief Minister Mr. M. Karunanidhi today announced the Constitution of a five member committee to advise the Government on mesures to better the administration of Temples, protect properties and improve their financial resources. The experts Committee would tour the State, talk to religious and spiritual leaders and people interested in temple maintenance, and present a report to the Government in three months. Based on its recommendations, the Government would take steps to improve the functioning of the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department. Sri Kundrakudi Adigalar, Sri N. Krishnaswamy Reddiar, former judge of the Madras High Court, Sri Thirumalai Iyengar of Srirangam, Sri K.M. Jayasenthilnathan, representative of Kanchi Sankara Mutt, and Mrs. Radha Thiagarajan, Vice-Chancellor of Alagappa University, Karaikkudi would comprise the Committee with the HR & CE Department Secretary as the Convenor.
Mr. Karunanidhi was addressing religious leaders, Mutt heads and prominent citizens devoted to the cause of Tamil culture, Hindu religious and temple worship, who were invited for a dialogue with the Government at the initiative of the Chief Minister in pursuance of an election promise made by his party.
In his introductory remarks, the Chief Minister recalled the steps taken, during the earlier DMK rule, to ensure that administration of temples, pooja and festivals were carried on without any defect and said, "now also we are keen to function in the same manner, and the discussion is to get ideas for improving the performance by making the necessary changes in administration."
During the three-and-a-half hour meeting, at the Secretariat, more than 20 participants gave their suggestions for improving the financial resources of temples, proper unkeep of temple premises and providing better facilities for devotees. The Chief Minister, who was keenly following the spedches, intervened more than once to get clarifications. Almost every speaker expressed concern over mismanagement of temples, misappropriation of properties and the paltry incomes that temples received from their agricultural lands and urban properties. Denied of the minimum returns from properties, even those temples owning several acres were often finding it difficult to have one-time pooja regularly and meet the expenses on lighting and staff salary.
Many participants insisted on archanas and other pooja rituals involving the public being conducted more in Tamil than in Sanskrit so that spiritual satisfaction of devotees was enhanced. At the same time, they said, nothing should be done which would tamper with the "agamas" and established procedures. The training facilities, for archakas, poojaris and odhuvars should be improved."
(Note : The said Committee visited several places and interviewed a number of people including the representatives of a number of organisations. It also got replies to its questionnaire. It has submitted its report within the stipulated time Viz., August 1989, but it is yet to see the light of the day).
(This extract is from the book "legislation for Temple Destruction", 2003.
Thanks: VAK journal).