Hindu Temples: now golden goose, now street dog – III
by Radha Rajan on 10 Dec 2010 15 Comments

[The soul of India lays in the protector-gods of the village hamlet, mountain, stream, pathway; this soul sanctifies our soulless towns and cities through humble abodes in street corners, under tree trunks, or as a simple wall poster. The Divine in Hindu thought does not dwell in a remote sky, but pervades all creation and hence must be received everywhere by providing a space, no matter how modest, as symbol of ownership and identification with the creation, and to provide guidance and solace to the humble devotee.


The nation’s Hindu ethos is under assault from soulless-secular and supposedly Hindu political parties. In this category we must include the Shiv Sena which, though not in power in Maharashtra, threatened humble Bihari migrants from celebrating the sun festival of Chhat in Mumbai. Hindus today face a cruel paradox – political parties and leaders who claim to represent them have no empathy for Hindu faith and sensitivity. The need of the hour, as the writer of this piece argues, is for a greater assertiveness by the Hindu community - Editor]


Street temples define the Hindu nation

Notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court had stayed the impugned Gujarat High Court ‘off with their heads’ Order, Narendra Modi continued to demolish street temples even in 2008; and this time the temples of Gandhinagar, the state capital of Gujarat suffered Modi’s guillotine. According to a survey undertaken by the Gandhinagar collectorate, (quite certainly upon orders from the Chief Minister because Collectors are not known to think or act independently) 107 temples on main roads and another 312 on interior roads hampered the free flow of traffic and were therefore targetted be removed.


The demolition mission began in the dead of the night on October 18, and continuing the asuric drive 80 street temples including some very old and important temples were demolished by Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar, riding roughshod over Hindu sensibilities. It should not surprise any of us that Modi after being stung in Vadodara in 2006, did not demolish a single mazhaar or dargah dotting the streets of Gujarat; only Hindu temples. 


Why was Modi destroying Hindu temples even after being denied the fig-leaf of a court order? These temples, according to Narendra Modi, were literally standing in the way of his magnificent development plans for Gujarat – broad roads for speeding vehicles, sweeping highways, freeways and motorways – all of them intended to showcase Gujarat to moneybags at home and abroad who were being invited to invest in the state.  


So blinding was the razzle-dazzle picture of Modi’s Gujarat making great development strides in all sectors of the economy that it didn’t seem to matter to Hindus that this development came at the cost of destroying the soul of the Hindu nation. This was Advani’s formula for governance sans ideology at its BJP best. Modi’s Gujarati asmita, now rooted in soulless development, like Gujarat’s tourism-promoting March kites, was soaring in secular spaces ethnically cleansed of Hindu temples.


Yet another BJP Chief Minister, Karnataka’s Yediyurappa, is so mesmerized by Modi’s development magic that he too thinks the road to Modi’s development model must be strewn with the debris of broken Hindu street temples. Hindu nationalists are forced to ask if Modi could not have taken Gujarat to these heights without destroying Hindu temples; this question needs to be asked because the NDA completed the most ambitious and path-breaking Golden Quadrilateral Project without sacrificing Hindu temples along the way.


Muted protests by Hindus who did not unleash the kind of violence that Muslims unleashed in Vadodara in 2006 did not deter Modi in 2008, and he was finally stopped in his tracks only by the direct intervention of VHP chief Ashok Singhal. Street temples are a contemporary phenomenon of city life and reflect not simply the Hindu face of the nation, but underscore a very important point that the core of the Hindu is the religious person; and the focal point of the life of this religious person is the temple he and she think is his/her own.


Street temples being demolished with such frenzy in Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are temples built literally with the sweat and money of Hindus who are self-employed in what we term as the unorganized sector of the nation’s economy – auto-rickshaw drivers, street vendors, shopkeepers, roadside eateries, small-time electricians, carpenters, masons and other daily wage earners – they build their own little temples where they live or where they work – on the platform and on the roadside close to their huts and tenements. These families, which migrated to the big cities, may be four or five decades ago or as recently as five or ten years ago, continue to retain binding ties with their villages and village temples, and build street temples to fill the vacuum caused by migration.  


If our courts and governments are going to hold these temples to be illegal and an encroachment on government land, and therefore to be bulldozed and razed to the ground, they are making the point that the religious sensibilities of these ordinary not so well-to-do Hindus can be trampled upon with impunity. What the government and our courts are also saying is that the religious sensibilities of ordinary Hindus and their places of worship can and should be sacrificed at the altar of development – development which Hindu nationalists hold is sans character, sensitivity and soul. More importantly, this is development which comes at the cost of de-Hinduising public spaces, which is the important agenda of politics of religion as defined and executed by the Abrahamic faiths.  


When ordinary Hindus build street temples, variously termed as ‘unauthorized’, ‘illegal’, and ‘encroachment’, they do so because they want their ishta devtas and devis to be an integral part of their daily lives. It is their fervent belief that their business will do well that day, and that if they nurture these temples with devotion, the standard of their hitherto difficult life will improve. These people offer worship in street temples the first thing in the morning before they start work and the last thing after they end their business for the day or shut shop and return home for the night.


One can actually see how, as the quality of life of these people in the “unorganized sector” improves, these street temples begin to reflect the growing prosperity of their first bhaktas. The thatched roof gives way to a proper ceiling, the temple gets an electric light, another sannidhi is added; Vishnu is now joined by Shiva and Ganesha is installed by Devi’s side; and in five or ten years time, this small street temple becomes a much loved public center in the locality. Tamil Nadu can boast of thousands of such small, unknown street temples to Devi, Hanuman, Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu and Murugan which today attract hundreds of bhaktas every week.


This column is about standing all Hindus in the dock – Hindu politicians with no conception of the Hindu nation who wield political power actively against Hindus no matter what fig-leaf they wear to do it; Hindu organizations which continue to remain indifferent to the accelerated pace of de-Hinduising the country’s public spaces and institutions; continue to allow the wrong people to manipulate and control important Hindu organizations as their personal fiefdoms to the detriment of Hindu interests; Hindu men and women in important positions in the police, media, bar and judiciary who foolishly or with evil intent continue to mouth pious platitudes about secularism, pluralism, tolerance and constitutionalism as excuses to pursue their anti-Hindu objectives; and above all ordinary well-to-do upwardly mobile Hindus, who are willing to sell their Hindu soul as the price for soaring, like Modi’s Gujarati kites, in secular skies.      


State loot at ancient temples


If street temples which were raised several years ago in devotion by ordinary, simple Hindus are being demolished by Karunanidhi, Yediyurappa and Narendra Modi, in the name of development and dravidianism, our ancient temples earning enormous annual revenues, fare no better. In Tamil Nadu, Hindu temples fall under several categories; big, medium and small (in terms of annual revenue), historically important temples which find mention in the songs of the Alwars and Nayanmars - the Vaishnava and Saiva bhakti saints, ancient and very ancient temples hundreds and even thousands of years old, temples controlled by the HR&CE, temples falling under the control of the ASI and temples not yet fifty years old, built and administered by bhaktas, not yet big enough to attract the HR&CE vultures and the thousands of street temples which define the Hindu nation today.


Except for the new temples built and administered by private trusts, bhakta mandalis and bhakta samaj and those that fall directly under the jurisdiction of mathathipathis and adeenams, all other temples have been alienated from the Hindus and are controlled by the HR&CE or by the ASI. According to records available with the ministry of HR&CE, the HR&CE has seized control of 38, 465 temples of which 381 temples are over 1000 years old and of these nearly a hundred temples are of extraordinary historical and architectural importance and splendour. 


The wealth of these temples include not only the astronomical amounts realized every year from cash offerings made by bhaktas, but also offerings received from bhaktas as jewellery and offerings of precious metals like platinum, gold and silver. Hindu temples owned large holdings of land both agriculture and non-agriculture; these were made as offerings originally by kings, queens, the socially and politically influential Hindu bhaktas and bhaktas whose affluence came from trade and commerce. The stone walls of every ancient and very ancient temple in Tamil Nadu are records of some of these important offerings and constitute in themselves an invaluable corpus of epigraphic history.


First the Congress governments in the state and then the rapacious and virulently anti-Hindu DMK governments followed by the AIADMK, have systematically alienated all lands from our temples, utilized the money from our temples to augment the state budget and utilized temple assets and money for non-Hindu and even anti-Hindu causes. Hindus never dared to ask for, and successive DMK and AIADMK governments never submitted accounts of temple wealth in movable and immovable assets, or submitted accounts of the total earnings from temples as revenue and accounts detailing the heads under which temple money was spent.


Hindus do not know the extent of land holdings or the quantum of other temple wealth as of 15 August 1947, and therefore do not know the extent of alienation of temple wealth and other assets. This is nothing short of the rape and plunder of our temples and only Hindus are to blame for it; we either did not care or did not dare to protect our temples; we did not even think of making the government accountable to the Hindu community.


Contrast this with what Islam and the Church are doing in Tamil Nadu. Let us for the moment set aside the issue of religious conversion; Muslims and Christians are on a property buying spree. Foreign money has transformed the Tamil Nadu landscape – both the coastal belt and the interiors. Not only are Muslims and Christians buying up entire streets and localities in Chennai, in the suburbs and villages, they are planting their places of worship strategically around every historical temple, and around every big and small temple in Tamil Nadu in such a way that government and administration officials are increasingly denying Hindus permission to perform their religious rituals and festivals in these temples citing fear of law and order problems that may ensue; in several temple towns the temple chariot has not been allowed to undertake its ceremonious procession around the four maadhaveedhis or circumambulatory roads around the temple.


Our historical, old and ancient temples are not our own, street temples are disappearing from our streets, churches and mosques are multiplying at an alarming rate in the proximity of all temples without exception, and Hindus remain impotent and incapable of dealing with this monumental crisis.  Let anyone travel the lanes, by-lanes, streets and main roads of Chennai and see the thousands of roadside Jesus and Mary structures which stand under the benevolent eye of the DMK government and its anti-Hindu administration. Not one of them has suffered the fate of Hindu street temples.   


One Hindu organization has its advocate wing called the Adivakta Parishad, the VHP has one of its own; a private initiative called the Dharma Rakshana Samiti has started an outfit called Advocates For Dharma besides bodies called Youth For Dharma and Professionals For Dharma; the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha has been promising Hindus a legal cell for the last so many years. But not one of them is working actively on any issue tormenting the Hindus because of politics of religion and minority-ism; they are either moribund or have not taken off the ground – all of them are simply paper tigers for dharma, serving as good talking points when we gather to sit passively in dharna and protest meetings to fume, fulminate and then go back home for dinner.


Why did the courts rush to demolish temples?


In the three years between May 2006 when the Additional Solicitor General sought a stay of the Gujarat High Court Order, and September 2009 when the Supreme Court issued the interim order banning building of new places of worship on public roads and public spaces, several things happened quietly between the central government and state governments on the one hand and between the central government and the Supreme Court on the other hand; and all this without attracting the attention of ordinary people. Which should make us all ask some sharp questions about Times of India’s motivated report on encroachments in Gujarat which triggered the demolition of temples in three states.


Street temples and other non-religious encroachments are a fact of life in every part of this country and a consequence of people’s migration from villages to towns and cities. So what was the real motive behind Times of India carrying a detailed report of the numbers of such encroachments in Ahmedabad for its first story on encroachments in Gujarat? Why did TOI target Modi’s Gujarat for this story and not Maharashtra or Delhi? That apart –


-        What exactly transpired between the Supreme Court and the central government that an issue concerning Vadodara was enlarged in scope to include all States and Union Territories?

-        Did the Supreme Court ask the central government to ask every state to file a list of such encroachments or did the central government voluntarily enlarge the scope of the exercise?

-        After inviting all Chief Secretaries for a meeting with the Secretary, Minister of Home Affairs, why did the central government seek a consensus opinion to take back to the Supreme Court?

-        Why didn’t any state government make the point that land is a state subject and what is permissible and what is illegal on these lands is for every state government to decide, and the Supreme Court cannot make the first move in this issue and intrude in what is essentially the domain of the Executive?

-        Are Hindus to understand that given the fact that the courts’ order was calling for demolition of Hindu street temples not even one state government made this point about the courts over-reaching themselves through the agency of its Chief Secretary to the Secretary Home Ministry?

-        Was there not one state government to give voice to Hindu interests? If there was, why was this voice of dissent not recorded with the Supreme Court?

-        Why was the central government insisting on taking back to the Supreme Court only a consensual opinion?

-        What would have happened if there had been no consensus on the issue?

-        Were dissenting states compelled or browbeaten into a forced and false consensus?

-        What would have been the next step had the central government been forced to record dissent on the Supreme Court directive?

-        After demanding compliance from all states with its order on 29 September 2009, why did the Supreme Court not take note of temples demolished in Tamil Nadu without adherence to its own order that all states should deal with already existing structures on a case by case basis?

-        The most important question here – why was the central government insistent on a consensus opinion?        


Karunanidhi and Sonia Gandhi are emboldened to rub the Hindu nose in the dirt because the so-called Hindu party is also doing the same. After mounting one of the worst attacks on a revered Hindu matham Jayalalithaa visited the Bhagwan Guruvayurappa temple in Thrissur, Kerala, and donated an elephant to the temple. Yediyurappa, even as he was demolishing temples back home in Karnataka, visited the famous Murugan temple in Tiruchendur, Tamil Nadu last week and made a donation of Rupees One Crore to the temple. One hesitates to use words like ‘sought darshan’ and ‘made an offering’ about Jayalalithaa and Yediyurappa; however we must all be forgiven for thinking that the size of their donations match either their own estimation of their guilt or their own estimation of their self-importance.


In spite of the fact that there are good laws to protect animals from cruelty and despite the fact that an amendment to the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals Act called the Dog Rule Act 2001 which ensures that street dogs are not killed and enables them to live and die with dignity, city corporations, municipalities and panchayats kill dogs both openly and clandestinely with impunity. But the most horrific and demoniac attack on street dogs was perpetrated by the Karnataka State Government under HD Kumaraswamy; Yediyurappa was Deputy Chief Minister then and he did nothing to stop the massacre. Hundreds of street dogs in Mysore, Bangalore and Mandyam were strangled, electrocuted, poisoned, and sabred to death, in full view of the public. In Tamil Nadu too newspapers report several cases of mass killing of street dogs by panchayats and municipalities, on one occasion even by a renowned minority college in the city.


Governments, civic bodies and individuals ask for killing of street dogs not because there is an increase in instances of rabies (Tamil Nadu and Gujarat are rabies-free states), but because street dogs like street temples are a hindrance to inviting foreigners and FDI into the country. Kerala, to invite more and more foreign tourists to its Ayurvedic massage parlours has almost totally, but not quite, exterminated street dogs from the state. Street dogs (those who think street dogs are dispensable can use street dogs to mean all animals and non-Human beings) and street temples define the Hindu nation; and their wellbeing determines the state of dharma.


The writer cannot help but think that the fortunes dogging retired Justices Ashok Kumar and Dinakaran, Modi, Yediyurappa, Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi is perhaps the law of karma taking its own course. The only prayaschitta is to rebuild all those temples that were destroyed between 2005 and 2010; this alone will earn them the good-will of Hindu bhaktas and when the bhakta is happy Bhagwan is happy too.


Readers must also see –






The author is editor, www.vigilonline.com

User Comments Post a Comment
Comments are free. However, comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate material will be removed from the site. Readers may report abuse at  editorvijayvaani@gmail.com
Post a Comment

Back to Top