The ancient temples of Tamil Nadu which form a part of our cultural heritage have been subjected to corruption and ignorance, making them lose their splendor ever since their administration was taken over by the secular government. The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE), which is the organization formed by the secular government to maintain temples, has severely failed in maintaining proper religious practices and transparency in administration. This can be seen from several complaints and issues which have arisen in temples across the state. The recent issue which has made headlines is the missing of gold in the newly constructed Murtis of Kanchipuram Ekambareshwarar Temple.
In 2016, complaints rose about corruption in the replacement of 1500 year old Somaskanda and Elavaar Kuzhali (Parvati) murtis of the Ekambareshwarar temple in Kanchipuram. The murtis were replaced on the basis of irreparable damages to the murti as reported by the chief architect of the HR&CE Muttaiah Stapathi. As per the court order on the this complaint, IG Pon Manickavel of the Idol wing investigated the issue.
From the investigation of Muttaiah Stapathi by keeping him in police custody, it was revealed that only 5.75 kilograms of gold were used to make the 65 kg murti of Elavaar Kuzhali and 50 kg murti of Somaskanda. The HR&CE had earlier put out a notification while making the murti, asking for 75 kgs of gold to make the new murtis as the ancient murtis contained about 75% of gold. The devotees on seeing this donated a lot of gold (estimated to be about 100 kgs) to the temple authorities for making the new murtis.
While the statement of Muttaiah Stapathi proved the corruption of about 95 kgs of gold by the HR&CE, the testing newly constructed of murtis at a lab in Chennai has proved that the newly constructed murtis had no traces of gold in them exposing the lies of the chief architect and HR&CE. Speaking to the press ADSP Veeramani said that the report of the tests conducted on the murtis has exposed the corruption of Muttaiah Stapthi and others with the co-operation of various officials in HRCE.
He further stated that Muttaiah Stapathi has been involved in a number of idol thefts through his company “Sornam exports” by giving false reports of irreparable damage to the ancient murtis of temples under HR&CE. Apart from being involved in the mishandling of gold given for the construction of the new murtis, he has also sold a number of ancient murtis of temples to foreign countries for crores of rupees with the help of HR&CE officials. This is also being determined by the police as the basis of the increase in the net worth of Muttaiah Stapathi which is currently at about 200 crore rupees.
It must be noted that till now about 1000 murtis are believed to have been exported to the foreign countries through this company. The police have sought custody of Muttaiah Stapathi to investigate about the exact number of ancient murtis which were exported. Further, the immediate recommendation of bail to Muttaiah Stapathi, made by the Additional Commissioner of HR&CE to a government lawyer when he was taken into custody by the police has also come to light.
As a result of this test of the murtis and investigations at various places in the temple, two complaints have been filed in the Sivakanchi Police Station. One about the missing of 5.75 kgs of gold allegedly used in the construction of the murtis and another for the missing of a golden thiruvaachi(a metal board used to adorn the deities with flowers during the processions). While the HR&CE had taken over the temples of Tamil Nadu citing mismanagement, the temples have seen degradation instead of improvement in the standards of administration. Will the administration of temples subjected to mismanagement by HR&CE be taken over from them for justice to prevail? Only time will tell..
(Feature image source: Polimer)
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