File photo of Sabarimala temple | PTI
File image of Sabarimala temple | PTI
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Ever since the Sabarimala temple case made headlines, the matter of government control over temples has attracted attention.

What began with the British rulers trying to control temple riches continues till today. It has not only led to government interference and incompetence, but has also disempowered the age-old system of traditional temple priests.

It is time the Hindu community is allowed to manage their own temples once again – the devotees’ donations should be used for social benefit instead of sitting in a government treasury.

British rulers and Hindu temples

Until the British came to India, temples were managed by local communities. They were centres of dance and art, and at the heart of a massive decentralised trade network according to author Sanjeev Sanyal.

Every temple had charitable endowments, including property given to temples, for the benefit of the community. The benefits included rest-houses, pathshalasgaushalas, and institutions for the advancement of education and feeding of the poor.


Also read: Tirupati controversy: Should large temples be run by government trusts or traditional owners?


For the British agenda of colonisation and conversions to succeed, the temple organisation had to be weakened. So, temples were brought under government control mainly in south India because not too many temples in the north possessed such massive property or wealth. The British introduced The Madras Regulation VII of 1817 to do this.

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In 1840, there was a directive from the East India Company to return the temples to their trustees, because Christian missionaries, in India and abroad, did not like the idea of Christians managing Hindu temples.

Thus, temple management was slowly, handed over to trustees and in case of prominent temples to Mutts by 1845. The Board of Revenue supervised the administration of large temples.

Next came The Religious Endowments Act 1863, which handed over temple administration to the trustees from the British government.

The primary purposes of worship and utilisation of funds for the upkeep of temples were never lost sight of by the Mutathipatis or other trustees.

Hundreds of temples in the Madras Presidency were handed over to the respective trustees with the government playing little or no role in supervising them. Trustees ran the temple following the tenets applicable to the temple.

All was well till the British introduced The Madras Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1925. It drew large protests from Muslims and Christians. Thus, it was redrafted to exclude them, made applicable to Hindus only and renamed as the Madras Hindu Religious and Endowments Act 1927.

Ironically, in 1925, the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was passed that brought gurdwaras under the control of an elected body of Sikhs. So the British had one set of laws for Hindus and another for the Sikhs, Muslims and Christians.

Even today, Hindu educational institutions, temples, religious traditions are subject to government control and judicial review, look for instance at the Supreme Court order on the Sabarimala temple.

But a radical change was introduced in the legislation by way of Act XII of 1935, through which temples could be notified by the government and their administration taken over. This way the Hindu Religious Endowment Board assumed powers to take over and administer temples. The board consisted of three to five members.

Indic scholar and author Subhash Kak wrote: “The state governments have based their policy on the recommendation of the Hindu Religious Endowments Commission headed by CP Ramaswamy Aiyer in 1960 that Hindu temples and maths be considered as belonging to the public. The government entered into the religious sphere when the Indian government was very aggressively pushing state control over all aspects of Indian life.

Post-Independence, the Tamil Nadu government took control of temples and their funds by an act passed in 1951 called the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951. The act’s provisions were challenged in the Madras High Court and subsequently in the Supreme Court in the Shirur Math case. Many provisions of the 1951 act were struck down by both courts. With some changes, The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act was passed in 1959. The Congress was in power in the country then.

It said that the purpose of the act was to see to it that religious trusts and institutions are properly administered and ensure that the income is not misused.


Also read: P. Chidambaram says Tirupati’s hundi collectors count notes faster than RBI. How much do they count?


The new act abolished the Hindu Religious Endowments Board and vested its authority in the Hindu religious and charitable endowments department of the government headed by a commissioner.

If the government believes that any Hindu public charitable endowment is being mismanaged, it may direct the commissioner to inquire and bring the endowment under government control. This provision of mismanagement does not apply to Muslim and Christian communities.

Temples of the south

Most southern states have a minister in-charge of Hindu religious and charitable endowments.

So, how do the state governments manage Hindu temples today? Let us take Sri Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani, Tamil Nadu as an example.

All hundi collections are deposited in the designated temple bank account. Of this, 14 per cent goes as administration fees, 4 per cent as audit fees (Section 92), 25-40 per cent as salaries and 1-2 per cent for prayers and other festival expenses. Between 4-10 per cent of the total collections go to the ‘Commissioner Common Good Fund’ (Section 97). Further, money is transferred to various popular schemes run by the government like free meals and marriages.

This way, 65-70 per cent of the temple income is used for non-temple or merely administrative purposes. Note that the Archakas who perform the prayers are paid meagre salaries, and sometimes nothing at all. Further temples, originally centres of learning, hardly use funds to run ved pathshalas and share knowledge about the Sanatan Dharma.

The bank account is in the name of the deity or the Devasthan. Since these temples are constituted under a State Act, their income is exempt from income tax under section 10 (23BBA) of the Income-Tax Act.

However, for reasons unknown, 782 of the 35,793 temples in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry applied for permanent account numbers (PAN) as a trust. Forming a trust with trustees works for a new temple but not for temples that came into existence hundreds of years ago.

Therefore, if a trust spends less than 85 per cent of total donations in a given year, income-tax, at rates applicable to individuals, is payable on the difference between amounts spent and amount received.

So, if the temple income is either not spent by the government-appointed officers or surplus money placed in fixed deposits, hundi donations are taxed. This way Hindu temples have become a tool to contribute to the government treasury.

Here are some key observations –

One, it is only for Hindu temples that the government wishes to ensure proper administration and its income used for ‘correct’ purposes.

Two, contributions made to Hindu temples is used by the commissioner uses to fund various government programmes.

Three, temple collections are not used to set up ved pathshalas and educational institutions for teaching Indian philosophy and tradition.

Four, Subramaniam Swamy wrote, “The Srirangam Ranganathat Temple paid the government a fee of Rs 18.56 crore (2010-11) for ‘administering the temple’, for employees rendering religious services like reciting Vedas, Pasurams during the deity processions, no salary is paid. They get offerings made by devotees and share in sale of archana tickets”.

Five, temple property has de-facto become pseudo-government property. According to T.R. Ramesh, President, Temple Worshippers Society Chennai – “Between 1986 and 2005 Tamil Nadu temples simply ‘lost’ 47,000 acres of land and currently more than 10 million square feet of valuable sites belonging to Hindu Temples in Tamil Nadu are under encroachment.”

He adds, “In Tamil Nadu temples have over 478,000 plus acres of land, 2.44 cr sq feet of property for which the TN HR & CE department gets only Rs 58 crs p.a. In reality income from all temples, mutts would, on a conservative basis generate Rs 6,000 cr p.a.”

Six, idols from ancient temples, part of India’s heritage, go missing. In any well-managed organisation, those responsible would be held accountable and punished, but not in the government.

Seven, government interference has interrupted the ancient lineage of priesthood.

Eight, when the government controls any institution, political interference, patronage and corruption invariably seep in.

Let us look at Kerala. According to Rahul Easwar, President of Ayappa Dharma Sena, “Kerala has four Devaswom boards namely, Guruvayur, Malabar, Travancore and Cochin. Every board has nominees appointed by the government. When the Communists are in power, they appoint members from their own parties and one member from the coalition partner. When the Congress comes to power, they balance it between Nairs, Ezhavas and a third community based on vote bank.” So technically, the government has no say in the management of temples, but in effect, they control the temples through their nominees.


Also read: How saviours of Ayyappa are gaslighting women over Sabarimala


He adds that, “Hundi collections are not spent promoting Sanatana Dharma, or for the benefit of poor Hindus, or on opening hospitals and orphanages. Instead, the money is spent on what is mysteriously called ‘development and construction.”

Even after Independence, the British policy continues. Are Hindus so incompetent and corrupt that they cannot manage their own temples?

The author is founder www.esamskriti.com and a chartered accountant. He tweets @sanjeev1927

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17 Comments Share Your Views

17 COMMENTS

  1. AS IT IS A LONG TIME PROBLEM OF HINDU MONEY BEING UTILISED FOR ANTI HINDU RELIGIOUS PURPOSES…
    SO IT IS HIGH TIME TO REDEEM TEMPLES FROM THE CRUCHES OF REGIONAL GOVT …

  2. Most of the Temple’s properties were occupied by Hindus, looting temple’s collection by Hindus.
    Lot of historic temples are not maintained properly in TN.
    Talk about Hindu God statues stolen by Hindu’s and sold to other Countries by Hindus.
    No action these criminals By Hindu run Government.

  3. What nonsense. Before the British came Hindu temples were looted, pilfered or destroyed by the Muslims. For over 1000 years Hindus have not been able to manage and protect the wealth of their temples. This must change immediately.

  4. How stupid is SIK? When other religions can manage their religious places. Why can’t Hindus? Are Hindus incapable? We have been doing it for thousands of years. Hindus are slaves in their own land. We need Hindu rashtra. That is the solution to all problems.

  5. Yes sir, we need control on our temples. A lot can be done with the funds we receive from temples . Need to focus on nurturing the cultural treasure and teachings of sanatana dharma.

  6. It is blatant discrimination perpetuated by the State on Hindu community just because we are the majority..the problem is the most severe in TN and AP and TS. So called atheist governments in TN and minority leaning governments in AP and TS have no shame or conscience while looting temple funds in the name if socialism. And the SC which otherwise is ..oh so sensitive about the sentiments of the minorities ..cares a hoot for the injustices meted out to hindu institutions. Hindus have to get together abd set right the wrongs.

  7. Yeah, right. All temples in India are under siege when a ‘Hindu party’ is in power. And we the ‘gullible’ Hindus will believe that and croak like frogs!!

    FYI Article 290A of the Indian constitution clearly states “A sum of forty-six lakhs and fifty thousand rupees shall be charged on, and paid out of, the Consolidated Fund of the State of Kerala every year to the Travancore Devaswom Fund; and a sum of thirteen lakhs and fifty thousand rupees shall be charged on, and paid out of, the Consolidated Fund of the State of Tamil Nadu every year to the Devaswom Fund established in that State for the maintenance of Hindu temples and shrines in the territories transferred to that State on the 1st day of November, 1956, from the State of Travancore-Cochin.”
    So there is a constitutional obligation on the State govts of TN and Kerala to pay the devaswom boards. But no such thing for the minorities (the Hajj subsidy has been removed, also it was given to Air India, not the pilgrims directly). Yet its the Hindu is in danger. And you know who inserted this into the constitution? Jawaharlal Nehru. The person whom you hate so much!!
    Also, the Tirumala Tirupathi devasthanams run nearly a dozen Eduational institutions and 3 hospitals. You can check their website for this. The Devaswom boards in Kerala run nearly a dozen colleges with only people from Hindu religion can be admitted as faculty. The Board even opposed extending reservation in appointments to these colleges (even though the salaries are paid by the State education dept) saying it will destroy the religious nature of the college.
    So dear author, think before you write any rubbish!! I you think that temples are under seige, its just falsehoods and nothing more. You can look at Muslim institutions anywhere. The Nizamudheen Darga has govt reps, the lanes are crowded,dirty and filthy coz its not the govt resp. Same is the fate of Haji Ali Dargah. Not one of them is properly maintained.
    Also ask yourself, if these temples were privatised, as you say, who will run them? You think people will know where the donations go? There wont even be audits of the money. That will destroy the temple even more as ppl will be reluctant to donate.
    Dont just publish idiotic articles under the guise of truth.

  8. Absolutely exposes the communal agenda of the Congress, Communist and Dravida parties of TN against the Hindus… High time these grossl unfair practices are thrown into the dustbin!

  9. Are Hindoos so corrupt and untrustworthy that they cannot manage their own temples? Yes. Because the Savarna temples and commonwealth have been confiscated from the Brahmanas and handed over the Govt made Hindoos

    This was a systematic, vicious and brilliant plan that the British (Indian Political Service) devised in the Viceregal period following the supercession of the East India Company by the Crown (1858). Delayed by the opposition of Lord Roberts and Curzon, The unrest under Chelmsford added to the reprisal unleashed by Lord Reading.

    After the 1857 mutiny, having had every Brahmin man, woman and child that they could lay hands in the erstwhile Bengal Presidency, Central Provinces, and United Provinces massacred by way of reprisal by their Madrassi, Pathan and Sikh soldiers, the British put together their plan to subjugate India and began the implementation from 1921; Confiscation of Savarna Commonwealth (Temples, treasure etc) in 1923 and expulsion of the Brahmanas from the courts and de recognizing their judicial authority. Distribution of agricultural lands on which guru kulas and temples were dependent to the ryots, Commencement of Daalit Movement (Phule, Ambedkar etc) in the West. Commencement of Draavid movement (EVR Naiker etc) in the South. Subversion of the Sikhs through Kartar and Karag (Sialkot) to commence the Akali movement in the North. Self emasculating pacifism and worship of alien religions and ideologies such as communism (Alan Octavian Hume, Indian National Congress, Gandhi, Nehru) etc etc. This and the pampering of the Deen e Kitabi (Christians and Moslems) as well as Daalits was enshrined in the Indian Constitution condemning India to a perpetual low intensity civil war. They solidified this by confiscating the commonwealth, including temples, educational institutions, gymnasiums, lands, water bodies, religious freedoms and dispossessing their hereditary law and education giving priesthood so that they would become rootless.

    The PANGOLIN*s extended the same policies to residual India including the unfortunate, formerly well governed, Princely States (Vijayanagar Viceregalities or Palegars and Maratha Governorates) such as Mysore, Travancore, Puri, Kohlapur, etc.

    The Government of India Act (1935) which was modified by Sir Maurice Gwyer for Nehru and Ambedkar to plagiarize into the Indian Constitution, and into which they embroidered ideas that they borrowed from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, such as “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” and “Four legs good, two legs bad”

    A nation locked in the iron maiden of the British Judiciary, Bureaucracy, Police, garnished with self serving politicians, and raised on the gibbet of the Reservations-Extortion Constitution and laws to fall to 135 out of 172 countries (and below Sub-Saharan Africa) in the Global Human and Social Development Index (UNDP – 2016) and 143 rd out of 172 countries in internal Peace and Stability (UNDP – 2016) , home to 30% of the World’s poor (World Bank 2016) and with the highest number of Bomb Blast in the World 2016) pushing Iraq to a lowly second place with just half as many; in just 67 years. India ranks 107 out of 124 countries in corruption free law enforcement and personal security. And in 2018 achieved the distinction of ranking 81 on the list of corrupt countries, ranked from Least Corrupt downwards, and 182 in terms of Freedom of Speech !

    *Note: PANGOLIN: An enemy of India who believes in inequality under law, exceptions to the rule of law and persecution of some for the benefit of others. At present, the sole purpose of the Indian Republic, Constitutional or otherwise, is to pamper and provide for certain constitutionally preferred sections of society who the British found useful to hold and exploit India at the cost of those who the British hated and persecuted. The Pangolin is a creature that is unique to India and feeds on ants that are known in nature to be industrious and hard working if not quite as fruitful as bees who flee to better climes. (PANGOLIN is an acronym for the Periyar-Ambedkar-Nehru-Gandhi-Other (alien) Religions-Communist Consensus that usurped the British Mantle and has worn it with elan to loot, plunder, and rape India since 1921 and re write History and laws to their exclusive benefit since 1947)

  10. we need at least that responsible. pls protect Hinduism in India. Where else can Hindus go.. Im a NRI. PLS VOTE FOR BJB. you can do it.

  11. Thanks for opening up a fact which deeply hurts my religion, Hinduism. This one of the reasons I wish someone like BJP wins.

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