Himachal’s rich temples too poor to afford cleanliness


    By: Satyakam Bharti

    So the Himachal Pradesh government is finding it real burdening to manage the hundreds of kilos (above 4 quintals as per official confession) of gold besides tonnes of other precious metals lying in its treasuries. Of course the treasure belongs to the gods and therefore it is certainly even more burdening to be custodian for the All Powerful. And what bright idea it is to bank on bullion reserves temple shrines across the state have – perhaps a godly stimulus for a fledgling mountain economy that is yet to fully integrate itself with the larger speculative world capital market.

    But money being money, the state government is justified in feeling the heat of more than 410 kgs of gold (valued above Rs 70 crore) lying unused with it. Perhaps not a great amount to catapult the state economy into a thriving one, nevertheless a decent amount to do the cleaning job in at least the shrines to which the treasure belongs. According to a report, in 2006, Chintpurni Devi temple, the richest of all shrines in the state, alone made a collection of over Rs 20 crore cash besides more than 20 kg of gold. That is certainly lot of money considering that majority of Himachali companies, if there are any genuine ones, may not be having that kind of yearly turnover.

    This would certainly make one believe the shrine might be heaven on earth, or at least a poor imitation of it with decent civic amenities. But that is certainly not the case. A visit to the place would make you realize that on reaching there you would be charged Rs 50 as parking fee and will yet be made to jostle through chaotic traffic of vehicles and humans. And that’s just the beginning. The journey up the hillock can be more condescending. The story of filth and poor infrastructure being the same for all shrines in the state. The situation is particularly bad during navratras when lakhs of devotees, most of them from outside the state, flood these temples. The situation becomes so pathetic that it nearly becomes torturous to even pass through these temple towns, leave aside paying obeisance.

    Though from time to time people have been questioning use of funds generated by these temples, hardly has any such audit ever been made public. The last time a hue and cry was made was after the Naina Devi tragedy but nothing great seems to be happening. The temples are collecting public money and therefore the public needs to be informed how this money is being spent. Leave aside providing world-class infrastructure, the temple managements can at least assure cleanliness, and I am sure the crores that devotees donate are enough for this job. It would have done a great service to the devotees had the government announced that the interest it expects to earn from these gold reserves would be used to keep these places clean, but that was not to be.

    It is rather a great irony that in a country where half of the population still lives a poverty-stricken life, religious institutions are ‘filthy rich’, making them power centres. Another noteworthy fact is that most of this money comes from the not-so-privileged class that is made to believe in the supremacy of their faith. The problem is more visible in the Hindu society with the Brahaminical order making sure that the caste divide remains visible enough. Perhaps, that’s the reason cleanliness in a Hindu temple stops beyond the sanctum santorum. Can we change this? Perhaps yes. Are the RSS volunteers listening?

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    1. i don't know if there is any regulation stopping the Gods from offering food to needy kids in school or shelters where people really need it. Of-course that once a life time repair consumes money, but then it takes lifetime to complete

      need to have liberty to spend money on social causes

    2. In a society where expression of "Dharma" (by going to temples) has greater importance than "Karma" (support any social cause), the financial health of our temples would always be sound. The amount of money collected, from devotees (read customers), by all the main temples of Himachal is huge. The least these temples can do, as part of customer service, is (1) Create high-quality, neat and clean lavotories, even if they are "paid" facilities, (2) Develop secure parking spaces, (3) Covered "Pedestrian only" paths, and (4) Provide security from monkeys, especially in Chamunda Temple. Better "customer-service" will attract more "new", "repeat", as well as "referred" customers (devotees), thus further improving their balance sheets!

    3. Well thats a nice piece Satyakam ji….Accountability to the people (specially on public funds) is least observed…

      i feel that part of the revenue generated in the places of worship should be used for upliftment of downtrodden with the help of social programmes run by philanthropists (which am surely are there in the society)

    4. It is time the revenue generated was put to some worthwhile use. Sometimes the money is spent on unwieldy projects like expansion, decorationetc, which are of little use to anyone. More money is required to be spent for charitable purposes.

    5. A well written articles but you finished it very poorly. There was no need for you to invite the RSS and you unnecessarly dragged in the Brahaminical order here. I would call it careless writing. The problem highlighted by you is the management issue – management of the fund and the development of the infrastructure to support and assit the devotees. How does – 'Brahaminical order making sure that the caste divide remains visible enough' figure here. It's good to write about social causes and issues but one has to be very senstive and careful with the choice of words and the message being articulated.

    6. i think gov earn mor than enough  to provide all these facilities , but this will not happen until  a orginaition  is set up within  trust ( mandir trust ).and if v talk about chintpurni these projects are in process .

    7. This is a very nice post by Satyakam Bharti . The whole state is know by the Name "Dev Bhoomi" .. "Land of Gods" , but the state of temples is not that good . To me , it seems that things are missing from both the public as well government part . Things which come to my mind are summarized as below :

      1. A fixed amount should be allocated to each Temple (depending on the number of visitors and the area) , every quarter to maintain general cleaniness and infrastructure .

      2. Special Laws should be enforced in the Temple and surrounding area , and those should be strictlly folowed by the general public.

      3. And like in other advance countries of the world ,littering should be considered as an offence in such areas .

      4. Any slag , on the Authorities part should be also considered as a crime .

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