Bengaluru: The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a deep toll on temples in Karnataka, with revenues falling 94 per cent from an average of Rs 317 crore per annum to all of Rs 18.7 crore so far this year, a state minister has told ThePrint.
According to Karnataka Endowment Minister Kota Srinivas Poojari, the drop in earnings has definitely affected the livelihood of temple priests and staff at some shrines. However, he said many temples were self-sufficient, and paid salaries from the interest earned on bank deposits.
“We have ensured that no temple staff member faces any shortage. But that aside, the earnings are also used for maintenance and Covid safety standards. This shortage is going to hit us hard there,” he said.
The money earned by temples — usually from offerings and pujas organised by people — is used to develop the premises, pay employees, and provide prasad (holy offering) to devotees.
Citing examples to explain just how hard the pandemic and the ensuing distancing regulations have hurt temples, he said the Kukke Subramanya temple in Dakshina Kannada district has only earned Rs 4.2 crore this year, against its average annual earnings of Rs 100 crore — a drop of 96 per cent.
The famous Chamundeshwari temple at Mysuru would annually collect around Rs 36 crore, with the Dussehra season usually bringing increased earnings. However, the temple has managed to collect just Rs 74 lakh — or 98 per cent of its average earnings — this year, he added.
Temples were shut down through the two-month Covid lockdown, but have since been allowed to reopen, albeit with several distancing regulations in place that don’t allow the kind of crowds that would throng shrines earlier.
Karnataka has an estimated 34,500 temples spread across the state, with some of the major shrines, including the Kollur Mookambika in Udupi, the Banashankari temple in Bengaluru, the Nanjundeshwara temple in Nanjangud, the Chamundeshwari temple in Mysuru, and the Subramanyeshwara temple in Kukke Subramanya near Mangaluru.
According to the Karnataka Endowment Department, temples in the state are qualified under three categories, in accordance with their earnings. The 175 temples under Class A category earn more than Rs 25 lakh annually. Another 163 temples under Class B have annual earnings between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 25 lakh. The Class C temples are those that earn an income of less than 5 lakh per annum and these are the temples that have been hit particularly hard.
“There have been online bookings and people are visiting the temples now. But the times the temples remained closed during the lockdown, that has definitely affected them,” Srinivas said.
In May this year, during the Covid lockdown, the state government decided to live-stream pujas for free. Many temples also allowed devotees to request special pujas online for a fee.
Since the online services began, temple offerings — prasad and theertha (holy water) — have been delivered to devotees’ doorstep by courier.