Temple donations have been a favourite stick of ignorant seculars to beat Hindus with. Tamil actress Jyothika, who is married to actor Suriya, is the latest celebrity to question temple donations by Hindus. Speaking at the JFW Awards ceremony, Jyothika said she had visited the Government Hospital during a shoot at Thanjavur (Tanjore) and was disheartened to see how poorly maintained it was, whereas the Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple which she’d visited previously was so well-maintained in comparison. She urged everyone to contribute to the improvement of public hospitals and schools just like how they donate in temple hundis.
What secular celebrities questioning Hindu donations to temples don’t know or choose to ignore is the vice like grip of government over Hindu temples. The TN Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act 1951, variants of which are enforced in almost all states, puts temples and its donations and assets in government hands. These are then siphoned off by governments to fund secular works. The HRCE Act leaves ample scope for misuse of temple funds which has been rampant. Mosques and churches, on the other hand, are completely free from government control. Every Hindu must know what happens to their donations.
For every big well-maintained Brihadeeswara temple, there are many lesser-known temples lying derelict, or where the pujaris and archakas are living a life of penury and where a temple’s Dharmic & social initiatives are seriously constrained due to lack of funds.
It is a pity that so many Hindus are ignorant about the institutionalized discrimination they face in two important spheres – religion and education – due to Articles 25 to 30 of the Constitution, and the anti-Hindu interpretation of these Articles by successive court judgements and Constitutional amendments. Seculars should show some humility and try to upgrade their knowledge – the Hindu Charter is a good place to start.
Most secular Hindus like Jyothika always tend to equate donating to temples and hospitals as if doing the two together are mutually exclusive. Then there are liberals who keep pointing out time and again how offering milk on Mahashivratri and other such Hindu rituals is a ‘waste of money’. People who create such absurd false equivalences never question why people spend on malls, pubs, fancy dinners, multiplexes and other entertainment instead of donating to hospitals.
Should we ask people to stop watching movies and donate to hospitals, temples & schools instead? After all, visiting a temple and listening to a scriptural talk or just meditating on the deity will surely elevate a person’s mind more than the junk served by movies these days? What seculars should understand is that how people spend the money they earn is their prerogative.
Everyone pays taxes in some form or other, so we are all already ‘donating’ to Government hospitals as they run on tax-payer money. Temples do not receive any tax-payer money, rather they are an important source of revenue for the rapacious secular state! Rather than guilt trip those Hindus who are still visiting temples, seculars should question why our Government run schools and hospitals are still in such shabby state after 70 years of being a secular, socialist republic.
While lecturing against donating to temples, secular Hindus overlook the contribution of temples towards the economy. Historically temples have been central to the economy and contributed to the economy in more ways than one. Apart from priests, temples provided employment to a plethora of professionals such as musicians, architects, sculptors, workers who maintain the temples, flower sellers and other vendors. Besides, temples also ran Vedic pathshalas (schools) and held lands which were given to farmers for community farming. Temples assured livelihood to the poorest of the poor. Every section of society was taken care of. Even today temples provide livelihood to numerous people such as flower vendors, sweet shop owners, those who run toy shops and eateries and many others.
But more importantly, temples were, till recently, the centre of Hindu public life. They preserved and propagated Dharma, arts, music and carried out philanthropic acts like (yes, dear seculars, it is true!) running schools and hospitals, building rest houses, water tanks & ponds. Festival processions conducted by the temple brought the entire community, rich & poor, together. It is a sad reflection of the secular state and our society today that the sight of a well-maintained temple is disturbing to some.
Brihadeeswara Temple of Thanjavur is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an architectural marvel and a living example of our great culture that we need to preserve for the future. Jyothika and liberals like her are bothered by the well-maintained state of a temple and make a false equivalence with the dilapidated condition of a government hospital. It is like comparing apples and oranges. The maintenance of both hospitals & temples is the responsibility of the administration. Moreover, barring a few major temples many ancient temples under the watch of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are no longer functional and have been reduced to neglected, second-rate tourist sites. The liberal Hindu heart that bleeds when heritage structures such as Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral catch fire turns into stone when it comes to ruined temples which are our heritage.
Temples have been at the forefront every time any calamity strikes the country. Even in this corona crisis all major temples made monetary contributions. Does any liberal have the guts to stand up and ask the Church, which reportedly controls the second-largest land bank in the country after the Government, or those who are constructing mosques at break-neck speed with Middle East money, to donate to secular causes like schools and hospitals?
When committed and practising Hindus are given complete control of their temples, they would be able to do so much more – we would maintain both the temple and public institutions like schools and hospitals better than the secular state does. Free us! Give us an autonomous body managed by practising, apolitical, capable Hindus, with the authority to administer our temples.
(Featured Image Source: Wikipedia)
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