Freeing of Hindu temples from Government control is an important civilizational goal. As is now well known, lakhs of Hindu temples have been taken over by various state Governments over the past 70 years. For Hindu civilisation to get back on the path of a resurgence, it is vitally important that one of its most important institutions — the temple — is brought back under the control of the Hindus.
There are numerous reasons why Government control of temples is bad. I will attempt discussing only a very small number of them here. It is not necessary that these are even the most important ones. I just hope the readers find these reasons relevant.
Unlike our Hindu rulers of the past, like say the Vijayanagara Kings or the Mysore Maharajas, the Government of India is a “secular” body. Our earlier rulers had the stated objective of establishing and nurturing a Hindu kingdom. Whether it was Krishnadevaraya or Shivaji, their goal was well known and completely pro-Hindu. The construction of numerous temples, land grants to existing ones, encouragement to arts, language and religious works — were all proof of their deep commitment to the Hindu cause. Under such circumstances, even if the rulers had a more-than-necessary say in the administration of temples, it would have been acceptable since their utmost goal was to see the best maintenance of the temple.
However, the case is not so with the Government of India. Ours is a Government that is in charge of, and responsible for, a “secular” nation. The responsibility, on the Government, for being “secular” or “religion-agnostic” has been imposed via our Constitution itself. The holy book of the Government mandates that it keep away any religious outlook in its activities.
On the other hand, the Hindu temple is anything but secular. The temple as an institution is deeply religious — deeply Hindu. It exists for the explicit purpose of establishing and increasing Dharma in this land — thereby ensuring Hindus adhere to the tenets of Sanatana Dharma.
The reigns of an institution whose primordial goal is to establish and propagate the Hindu religion CANNOT be in the hands of a body whose mandated duty is to keep away religion from all its operations.
The philosophy, beliefs and practices of the head of an institution permeates, over time, into the institution itself. The Government may try all it can to appoint a person who is a Hindu in order to run a temple. But such a person is not completely free from the control of his parent institution — the Government — and in the long run, he will succumb to the demands of his controlling body rather than the institution he is required to nurture.
A religious body being managed by a secular entity is therefore fundamentally wrong.
Purpose of management
There is no concept of a Government temple in India. All the temples that are currently managed by the Government have been “taken over”. The numerous HR & CE Acts that operate in various states facilitate these takeovers — primarily on the grounds of the temple being “mismanaged”. The mismanagement could be corruption, malpractices or illegal activities (such as for e.g. practising untouchability). The Government takes over the temple on the pretext of setting right the particular anomaly but continues to manage till perpetuity.
Under such a scenario, it is natural to expect that the primary goal of the Government administrators is to set right the mismanagement (assuming, very naively, that they actually are intent on doing the same). However, the primary goal of any temple should always be only one — that of ensuring the worship of the deity happens as per scriptures and local traditions. The supreme responsibility of the managers of a temple is to “please the diety”. Whatever it takes to ensure the “sannidhana” of the deity remains in the temple must be accorded importance.
Everything else is secondary.
This is of course, no to downplay the importance of other necessities such as corruption-free administrators, cleanliness, good facilities and good treatment of devotees. However, if a temple was, hypothetically, allowed to describe only one purpose for its existence — Government management would declare that purpose to be a “mismanagement free administration” when it ought to be “doing everything it takes to keep the deity pleased”.
Worship of the deity is the “critical” purpose of a temple’s existence.
Cleanliness, facilities, food for devotees, clean records — are all “must-have” purposes — but distinctly secondary to the “critical” purpose.
Any institution whose founding principle differs from the primary goal of its management cannot excel. A temple under Government control is therefore in wrong hands.
Incentive to mal-administer
When a temple administration is changed — upon detection of corruption or mismanagement — a new team is acceptable only when there is a definite chance that they will deliver corruption free management. With Government control, however, the chances of the exact opposite are higher.
World over, and especially so in India, it is well established that the Government is the most corrupt institution. The state of our nation, even after 70 years, and the steady news of scams month after month, year after year, are proof enough of the corruption and incompetency of the Government.
In this nation, the Government runs our primary education services (mainly). Our education system is in shambles today.
The Government manages our country’s infrastructure. Many of our roads are comparable to craters on the moon. Thousands of homes in this nation are yet to see the arrival of electricity. Our farmers commit suicide for lack of water supply to their fields.
Our Government manages our biggest airline. It is in such a bad state it can’t even find a buyer!
The list goes on and on. But the pattern remains the same. Any institution that the Government touches — is marked by corruption, bureaucracy and mediocrity in output.
There is no reason to believe that the results will be any different if the Government takes over temples.
The unique nature of our Hindu practices in temples, such as offering money into the Hundis, offering dakshina to the archakas and other members of the temple, the concept of various “sevas”, the practice of undertaking “sankalpa” — all of these offer ample scope for financial “play”.
A Government employee, in addition to seeing numerous opportunities, also knows how well he or she is protected by the law, government processes and the bureaucracy. The fear of getting caught is thus much lower in a Government official as compared to a private individual belonging to the region around the temple.
Therefore, the possibility of mismanagement, neglect and corruption is much higher in the hands of Government officials as compared to private individuals with “skin in the game”.
In summary, the takeover and management of Hindu temples by the Government is wrong from (a) an ideological standpoint (b) a focus or goal standpoint and (c) the stated objective of eliminating maladministration.