The Srijan Foundation organized a talk by J. Sai Deepak at the Press Club of India. The topic of the talk was ‘Freeing Hindu Temples from Government Control’.

J. Sai Deepak:

Now before I go to my comfort zone which is the law I will go to something else. We need to understand the reason why the Hindu institutions are in dire need of this kind of intervention. Look at the state of our temples. Look at the status of affairs of all communities dependent on temples. It’s not just about the priest. Let’s be very clear about that. It goes much beyond that. Is there anywhere here who is from Kerala? Hmm!

So, there is a group of castes called the Ambalavasis. Ambalavasis are the Marars, the Chakyars, the Variar; I think you have a total of 8 castes which fall under this. Each of these castes has been designated based on the profession or the vocation within the temple. ‘Ambalam’ means a temple, pardon me if I am wrong, I think that’s the case. And people whose profession or vocation relates to temples are Ambalvasis. At least 8 castes derive their livelihoods from temples. What does this tell you? Temples as far as the Hindu society is concerned, is not just being a center of religious importance. It plays a social function.  It plays a religious function. It plays an economic function. That’s very very important.

You see all the beautiful architecture in South Indian temples or the temples of North India. There are principles that are to be observed and the people who do this, they are not Brahmins at all, they are Vishwakarmas. This is a dying breed today. We don’t have people who understand how to play around with that piece stone. They have genders for a piece of stone. This is a female stone, this is a male stone! That is a dying breed in this country because, the temple institution, as an institution itself, is on the verge of extinction. Because it has been uprooted. And systematically it has happened over years! When British did it, at least they had no reasons to feel any sense of attachment. They didn’t belong to this country, they never belonged to this country. If the same policy has continued after 1947 either we believe that the British were right or we always stayed colonial slaves mentally.

This needs to change!

The reason this also needs to change is this. For the average Hindu regardless of which part of the country he resides in, the temple is still the place he used to go and goes, for spiritual solace. He doesn’t go to Babas and Ashrams. These come secondary as far as he is concerned. In fact for an average Hindu in any part of the country, he is intimidated by ‘million dollar ashrams’. He will not step in that place for the simple reason. The grandeur of the place, the scale of the place! He wasn’t feeling at home as far as he is concerned

Therefore he looks to the temple as far as the spiritual solace is concerned. Therefore if u want Hinduism to survive, then the Aasthaa has to survive in the average Hindu and therefore for that to happen those institutions to which he can relate to, must be revived.

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