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How Do We Administer Our Temples – A Talk By TR Ramesh

Freeing Hindu Temples From Govt control is one of the key demands of Hindu Charter. Please read the Demands in detail and Support the Charter of Hindu Demands by signing the petition at…

Transcript: –

So, how do we manage our temples. the first thing you should remember is, democracy would not work. you can’t say okay. there are 800 persons in a village. they will work, they will choose who they like, and the Person will run the temple, he or she or they. No, you have to have qualifications. So when we determine, who will administer temple, we must first find out and getting declared, this belongs to this Sampradaya and only those people can administer temple. There is already a methodology by which hereditary trustees, with that the role of hereditary trustees is very important because their loyalty flows through their weights.

We have seen enough, I told you we are getting your temples back. I am going to do a little talk on. why we are getting temples back? after this presentation, let’s assume for a moment, all our temples are coming back and we are going to administer them, before administering them we need to see what really happens inside a temple or a very adjacent to it. we have to see that there are four areas by which we could segregate what happens in a temple.

One is the worship, poojas, festivals and those rare occasions very to a consecration, what’s it twelve years over. those are religious matters. The second is the administration of properties, immovable and movable. I just now mention the extent of property is not a temples are, the undivided Andhra Pradesh had more, Karnataka also there are more, in Kerala they systematically, the communist governments, which came to power very early they took away a lot of temple properties and they are giving in some pittance, as annual annuity compensation. we have filed a case against that. unfortunately, the Supreme Court wanted some more information and they give the petition back to us, we are working on the information, we will be filing the case again. As per our calculation the annuity is a minimum level, they should come to Kerala temples for the lands taken by the government, is about 280 crores per annum and the arrears of the annuity, the last 70 years with interest, it comes about one hundred and fifty thousand crore rupees.

So then you have the day-to-day administration in the temple how do you run a temple, when do you open it, how do you manage the crowd, how do you keep the temple clean, how do you protect them, how do you do watch and ward duty, all this and the daily expenses, the daily income, how to account it, how do you have expenses supposing you have, a some civil repairs, how do you call for a tender, all these things, these are all administration side. that’s the third one.

The fourth one is the Heritage, especially in South India where you have a large number of temples that are more than hundred years old and any temple that is more than hundred years old  is a ancient temple by definition. we have to preserve them, preservation is something little more than conservation. you have to keep them as they are. the only thing you should not allow to happen is their structural stability should not get diluted, you should keep them as they are, you can’t say ‘okay, there is so much open space here, I will add one more Mandapam here and there is  so much space here and build some shops, I will put an office’. No, the vacant spaces are holy, they are important, they are part of the heritage and a part of the Agama Shastras more importantly. So these are the four areas. Now one cannot expect to be, you know everybody to be expressing all these qualities, definitely not even in more than one area is going to be difficult.

So how do we manage our temples the first thing you should remember is democracy would not work, he can’t say okay there are 800 persons in the village, they will work ,they will choose who they like, and the person will run the temple he or she or they, no, you have to have qualifications. if you have something like a bank, you don’t elect the bank manager, do you? you don’t elect the college Principal? you don’t elect for your RBI governor? No. doesn’t work there. So you need to have qualifications and there is already a methodology by which hereditary trustees with that. Hereditary trustees were usually coming from families which had affluence people, who had knowledge of the Sastras and also has some influence of the locality. The role of hereditary trustees is very important because the loyalty flows through their weights, the grandfather would have taught his grandchild or granddaughter or grandson, when they were 5 years old, six or saying that this is our temple, we have this duty and when he come to the temple you take that Mudra bandhana and tight here, you prostrate at the entrance, this is how you receive Prasad and how do you do offer worship and how do you protect the properties and how many keep the temple clean and when you come out of the temple you don’t take anything with you except Prasad. The Travancore  Maharaja, when he comes out of the temple, he washes his feet and come, he does not even want to take that dust from the temple. They, the Raja was always known as Padmanabha dasa, he was never known as the King, slave of Padmanabha.

Now what are the qualifications? I put here internal and external to run the temple, is called in Tamil called Uthurai, run Affairs, to recover the affaires. Outside is called vellithurai, inside and outside. So inside the poojari is there, the archaka is there, the musicians are there. Then you have scholars of Sastra, Veda pundits and all that. what qualifications they have, the cook, even the person who cleans the temple, what qualifications they should have, the sweeper require qualification. yes, inquest  a qualification, yes he should first bath and come. he should respect temple rules, he should not be a drunkard. now we have to see, show me one executive officer who is not a drunkard, I will show you nine who are drunkards, external administrative capability, vision, loyalty, honesty, how to protect properties, they should have aligned efficiency, so external qualifications.

Then we should not just depend on individuals. we should have two bodies, one body are Dharmic parishad, which will have able administrators, people with Sastra knowledge, and people who know about the temple, archaeology inscriptions, basic stuff; not archaeology experts, something to do with temple Sastras, one body and one body to look after the assets, I will come in.

Now this is a very important point. I have a set of slides, separately to show, how we were short changed for the last 70 years, how if I may be permitted to say so, even the Supreme Court denied us fundamental rights, every temple belongs to one Sampradaya. why do I use the word sampradaya instead of denominations? denominations is a hundred percent Western concept and is more a church concept. you only had Catholics, then you started having Protestants, then the Protestants, there are hundreds of divisions. if you go to the US, you will find a Methodist, Adventists, Amische, Protestant, Pentecostal and within Pentecostal ‘born again’ and what about not at all. So each church belongs to one denomination another up and if you belong to in the Pentecostal church, if you are a member of it, we know we are numbers of temples, but the Christian community that they are members and if your family goes to a Pentecostal church and if we move from Bengaluru to Mysore and Mysore you don’t find a Pentecostal church and saying just an example. there is a baby born in your family, you can’t as a Catholic family take it to, sorry, Pentecostal family take it to a Catholic Church and say please baptize my child. No, they will refuse. somebody dies the family, can I burry my dead in your church where we are? no, refused.

But in Hindu sampradayas I might be a Vaishnavite and with the Vaishnavite, I might be a Bengali Vaishanvite, but I will still go to other temples, other Vishnu temples, other deity temples,  vice versa, I am Saivite, I go to all Vishnu temples, I go to Devi temples, I go to Ayyappa temples and nobody stops me, nobody would stop me. ‘hey! you Vaishnavite, why are you coming to my temple, have you any question being asked? anywhere? No, you are Vaishnavite, why are you doing this ritual inside the Siva temple, No, this is sampradaya. Sampradaya will have unique practices. Shiva Sampradaya will be different from Vaishnava sampradaya. but that doesn’t stop talking denominations, whereas Court said, no you need to be an organization, you need to have a common faith, you need to have a common name, and only those people should come, Sabarimala is not a denomination, what and unique color like  Sabarimala, it’s not a denomination, why? Because millions of devotees are coming and they belong to various sects – Vaishnava, Saivites., even non-Hindus are coming. So you are part of denomination, so you have since you are not a denomination, you are  just a Hindu and since you are just the Hindu, it is not a Hindu practice to stop women from coming to that or this temple. So that is the logic behind the majority judgment of the Sabarimala temple case.

So in reality, we should only look at the practices, the tenants the temple follows. This follows the Vaishnava sampradaya. Yes, it belongs to it. This follows the Linga sampradaya, yes. So when we determine, who will administer temple, we must first find out and get it declared, this belongs to this sampradaya and only those people can administer the temple. Second the concept of Hindus, there was no such thing as Hindus. But there are people in inversely following Sanatana Dharma, which has its basis, in the Vedas. Among the so-called Hindu religion and Nastik is not someone who does not believe in God, and Nastik is someone who does not believe in the Vedas. So we must remember that.

And now, let’s go to who can be the first trustees. For two generations there are no trustees. I mean no proper trustees. So how do we take the temples from government and how do we appoint trustees. Hereditary trustees are there, fine, their family can continue unless and otherwise it is proven that the current family members are mistreses. Then they should not be there. All the major temples in Karnataka or Tamil Nadu or Andhra, they all had at one point of time especially before 1951 some scheme of administration framed, by either the district court or a high court or even a royal court and which they have been following. There are always be Hindus, are experts in fighting, I want the first Honor. No, I am the third son of the fourth wife. I am only entitled to run this temple. All these problems were there.

So, they all went to the court and courts invariably came with good schemes of administration, they settle the schemes only the interest of the temple in mind and how it should be run. After HR&C, after Muzrai department taking all the temples, the first thing they scrap those schemes.  We are running the temples as per law, that’s their argument and what does law say, anything the minister says is law. So we should adapt those schemes of administration and yeah! government will be there as a watchdog, at the distance. What do we do these days, we allow dogs inside the houses. Those days they never did it. It used to be tied up next to a tree or something, the night they let it.

Government can regulate it can say you have to follow double-entry book keeping system, if you are getting X amount of income, you have to get your accounts verified by a charter accountant, you should publish your audited reports, you should beforehand publish your projected budget of income and expenditure. These are regulations, but control is saying, I will decide when your temple will do the consecration, I will determine how much it will spend, I will determine who is to be invited for festivals and all other.

Now who can be trustees? We already talked about denominations of sampradayas. If it is a Vaishnava temple only, Vaishnavite should be administered to us, everyone can go and offer worship. But it should be only the denomination people who should administer the temple. But they should be qualified persons. So, what is the Chola system here. Chola kingdom system, the builders of at the time of Brihadeesvara temple, the well firmness, which is now a UNESCO site, they also have built a temple here in Karnataka. I think some 70, 80 kilometers from here, this is a Chola temple, many many… Okay.

So they have a system of administration of villages and any institution which is called the Kudavolai system. Volai is the ‘palm leaf’, and Kudam means ‘pot’. So, first they announce the qualifications, you should have your own property, you should have at least one third of a velly. Velly is six and a half acres or 6.25 acres. So you should have at least two acres of land, you should have your own house in the village or town, why do they insist on this. Otherwise tomorrow you make somebody a trustee, who is not even a resident of this village, who doesn’t have properties and he runs away with the jobs. What do you do? At least you can lay your hands on the house on the land. So first you should have some properties, then you should be between the age of 35 and 70. No, you know like making someone very young, who’s inexperienced or making someone very old in those days. 70 years is a very ripe old age. Probably many of them did not even have good eyesight. So, 70 is the maximum age, and you can be the administrator if chosen for three years. The next three years you cannot contest again. These kind of qualification, disqualification.., he should not be a drunkard, you should not have and if you fail to give the accounts after being chosen as a trustee and serving as a trustee, not only you are their family members, your ant’s, your uncle’s, your cousins are debar from contesting.

So they write the name of the qualified people, they have divided into six administrations, banks, temple, property, garden and all that and you have 15, 20 names in the pot. A child is asked to come and pick up a palm leaf. So, the first name, second name., six names are chosen. Even today this is followed in Chidambaram temple. Chidambaram temple, it has got about two, sorry the last count about 320 teachers and each of them have equal powers. So if you were in the managing committee previously, your name would be there. The other nine members form a committee. The other members names of put in a pot on February 28th. Nine names are selected, and one-month time is given. Suddenly somebody says, “No, this year I don’t think I can take the responsibility”. They are given that opportunity to deny that.

Then on 1st April morning then again the nine names are put and they have taken, the first name comes out is the Secretary, of the oath teacher, that means he’s the heading all the teachers for that year, one year. This system is being formed. So, we should very clearly laid out the qualifications. People with property, people who are resident, people who are education, people who are skills, and known for their honesty and known for their devotedness and then the first time around, we should place the names in a pot before the Lord and we should ask a child to pick it up. So even those who are chosen they will know it is the God who has allowed them to be chosen. That’s the systems should be followed to begin with, is my humble opinion. But of course, that doesn’t mean any names, the name should be from the denomination, the name should be with both of those qualifications and that they should hold a minimum of three years and after choosing the trustees, in the day-to-day running of the temple.

If there are any disputes, religious disputes people or the devotee should be barred from going to the courts. We shall give you a verdict of 25 years or 30 years or we will just give it any verdict which has nothing to do with the Dharma and Sastras. They should go to the Dharmic Parishad which is a body, which is should be epic body, I said regarding religious matters.

Now if you take State Bank of India or railways or LIC  which are huge organizations, which have been there for more than a generation, they have a lot of external immovable properties, they have sites, they have a lot of buildings, there are other houses, railways has huge properties and they get income from those properties, is a sizeable income, besides their banking business, besides there a railway business, besides their insurance business. These companies get money from these properties and how do they manage these properties, they have something called estate officer. The estate officer is a qualified judge, in the rank of district judge, he has experience as a judge and he is chosen and designated as estate officer for LIC. Now any dispute rent fixations, eviction, encroachment and all these things, you can’t go to a civil court and find a case against the property owner, who is SBI or LIC. You have to go before the respective estate office.

Similarly, for temples, we should have a district wise estate office, which will deal with the temples, external property management, this temple has ten houses, ten houses of let down rent. So, what are the, how do you fix the lease, there should be guidelines, there should be general guidelines and there should be specific guidelines supposing one of these ten houses  as a special market-value and be naturally be rent fixation, will be different and there will be disputes and all this would be dealt with by the estate officer, who has quasi judicial power.

Now the estate officer gives a judgment, gives an order and he says “no, from 2016 the rent has been revised from 10,000 to 25,000 rupees, that is the fair rent, that is much less than the market, where you will have to pay arrears from 2015, people usually go to the court and they get a stay order, depending on the judge or depending on your lawyer whichever in case may be. So in such cases, the court should not grant stay, unless than otherwise even the minimum that ten thousand rupees which is pending since 2016, that was clear. So the legislation should be made such a way that, it does not help the violator, it does not help the encroacher, supposing I say no, no, that the rent has been increased, it should be actually only 10,000 rupees, I mean charge 15,000 rupees. Okay, “who are you, how did you come to stay in this house, oh! no, I pay pagadi to somebody and give this house, I don’t have any lease agreement”. Then the answer should be get out. You can’t tell the court, “no, no, if I moved out I have a family, my son is studying, first of all you broke the law and you came here and you are trying to use the law to have a game over the temple, that should not be allowed.

Now, what are the other things we should do to run the temples. How many of you know, that the temples in Andhra, Karnataka or Tamilnadu or in Kerala, they do not even followed double-entry book keeping system. If you put deposit, bank deposits supposing, hundis collection, you open the hundis only up to three months, you find 5 lakh rupees, 25000 rupees, you put 5 lakh  deposit, that 25,000 rupees, you keep for expenses, that 5 lakh rupees is treated as an expense, that 10 lakh rupee deposit matures, it is treated as an income, this is single-entry book keeping system. Just to explain and there are no external audit, is only internal audit and we saw how many audit objections were pending as of 2016. In Tamil Nadu, 1.3 million audit objections, wherever necessary, external what it should happen.

In fact the Tamil Nadu Act, that very clearly says and it was drafted in 1959, it came to force on 1st January 1960 the Act says, all temples which are having less than 1,000 annual income shall have an internal audit. That means, if you have 1001 rupee as annual income you will have external audit, okay. Know that 1 lakh to become, you know… sorry, 1000 become, one lakh now or even 10 lakhs. But Pazhani temples, which is getting 250 crore rupees, has no external audit and one more thing I will tell you. The Tamil Nadu team which does the audit for temple to the internal audit team does not even have a manual, audit manual. This has come out of RTI questions, they don’t have audit manual. How do you do the audit? We do it with the internal surplus, good.

So then something called voluntary adherence to RTI, at least those temples which have more than 5 lakh, income even if they come out of government control, they should voluntarily adhere to right to information, that doesn’t mean you keep answering all the questions people ask you. Today even if my name is Farooq Abdullah, I can ask questions under RTI they wanted to put the temple. Nobody can ask me the locus, because as a citizen of India I am entitled to a RTI. Now when you do voluntarily RTI after coming out of government control and for temples  having more than five lakh rupees, you can lay some conditions, you will ask about the accounts you will ask about the decisions taken, you will not ask for the pictures of the Jewels, you will not ask for the rationale behind choosing a date for consecration, on that you will not ask, you will not ask if you do not belong to the Hindu religion. Something like this those conditions but you should have something similar to RTI, then you should have Government of India accounting standards that are applicable to trust and minimum administration cost.

I talked about Voluntarism. In the beginning people should, Hindu should, come to temples and offer Seva to lift the palanquin of the Lord, it is a Punya, people should realize all that they should come back, ladies will come and clean the temple, they will come and do this Kolam, they will decorate the temple, they will come with the garment of flowers, all those things, they will come with some specially embroidered clothes all ones and the administration cost should be minimum. Today the Tamil Nadu government charges 14% as administration cost and 4% as audit fee. Andhra Pradesh a total of 20%. There is 1/5 of your income. Imagine one fifth of the Tirupati income as administrative charges for the lousy administration they give you. They are looting you and I and the Lord, then we should to begin with publish what are these statues, here what are the variables here, what are the properties here, the survey numbers, the  location, is it agriculture land, is it the orchard, is it a site, is it a building., all they should be published and updated once in three years or five years and anyone enrolling any property for temples they should be immediately registered.

What happens is, what has been happening over 60 – 70 years is, there will be one devote gentleman, who will be having three apartments, let’s say or he has three floors in his own house, he will say the third floor income, should go to lord Brihadeesvara for this purpose, for Annadana of the temples, during his days it will happen, during his son days something of it will happen, the grandsons day the building is sold off. There’s nothing there and who knows about it. Nobody knows about it. So, if you are in doing something, if you are willing a charity they should all be registered by law like a will and with the register of properties. Okay, with copies to the temple copies to the register, copy to the government, and maybe copy to the estate office, which you are talking about.

And mutts, the Kanchi Mahaswami used to say, in Karnataka, if you fall, you had a fall in front of a mutt. There are so many mutts in karnataka and Tamil Nadu also is. Kerala, one state where they didn’t have too many mutts. Andhra also, you have mutts, we have Periya Jeeyar, Chinna Jeeyar, all these things, mutts, have a very big responsibility. Today unfortunately, I shouldn’t be saying this, but one problem is nepotism. So the next Madathipati, even in mutts were Brahmacharya have to serve, is usually from the immediate relative circle or somebody is favored for whatever reason. Then that means, you are not chosen as the next Madathipati based on your horoscope, based on Outlook, based on your training, based on the tests done by the Acharya, the proper test done by the Acharya in selecting his disciple. If such things happen, if the proper Madathipati does not come what happens, then we devotees won’t respect Madathipati, we will find him like an ordinary human being, as it is happening now.

But what Madathipatis have a very big, because if they stand up and say something even today there are tens of thousands of people willing to listen, Sri Acharya comes and says, “no, this was not done this way”. People immediately say, “yes, Pujya Swamiji, Pujya Sankaracarya Swami ji. What he says is correct, as it, we should not be certifying, what he says is correct, but they are agree with it, because person, say ascetic, a person who when he told his mother passed away, she said, okay, is it okay, by sastras I had to have a bath, he had a bath and been to do puja.

So such people, we respect, we expect guidelines from them. So mutts have a very big this thing, I am putting this as a special slide because tomorrow all sudden, then let it be denomination, let it be sampradaya, let it be schemes of administration. But when there is a dispute, when there is a problem, who do we go to, we go to Madathipati and this Madathipati should guide us as purpose aspects and to do that there should be proper selection, proper training and they should be like fillers of fire and mutts also have a responsibility to run institutions Dharmic institutions, Veda patasala, Pai Veda Patasala, Gosalas and from them we will derive inspiration.

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