Control Over Hindu Temples Should Be In Hindu Hands Now

Control Over Hindu Temples Should Be In Hindu Hands Now

Government control over Hindu temples

The management of religious institutions in India is a complex issue governed by different laws and historical practices. The government’s control over Hindu temples, but not over mosques or churches, primarily has its roots in India’s historical and legal context.

The British Diverted Temple Funds

During the British colonial era, many South Indian temples fell under the direct control of the British administration. The excuse was to manage the temple affairs more efficiently and protect the temple properties from misuse.

The British controlled and stole the vast wealth associated with many temples. Temples in India, particularly the larger ones, typically had substantial assets in the form of land, gold, and other valuables. The income generated from these assets and the donations from devotees often went to the British treasury.

By controlling religious institutions, the British authorities could influence large sections of the Indian population. Temples were not just places of worship but also important centers of social and cultural life. Control over temples gave the British control over these social and cultural aspects. By involving themselves in the administration of Hindu temples, the British could promote their interpretations and understandings of Hindu practices and rituals. This sometimes led to significant changes in these practices, often aligning them more closely with British values and legal concepts.

The British used their control over Hindu temples to establish legal precedents. They intervened in religious disputes, interpreted religious laws, and established legal structures that continued influencing the Indian legal system even after independence.

Nehru Retained Temples’ Control

Post-independence, rather than returning these temples to the communities, the newly independent Indian government under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru continued the existing practice. This led to the enactment of several state-level laws, like the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, that allowed the state governments to take over the administration of temples. While this was primarily prevalent in South India, similar models exist in other parts of the country.

These laws and subsequent amendments have been controversial, as critics argue that they infringe on the religious rights of Hindus and that it’s contradictory for a secular government to manage religious institutions. They also criticize the misuse of temple revenues and the alleged neglect of temples under government control.

Non-Hindu Institutions Are Not Under Government Control

On the other hand, mosques, churches, and other religious institutions are typically managed by their respective communities under the protections guaranteed to religious and cultural groups under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution.

The disparity in government control has been a subject of controversy and legal challenges. Critics argue that it infringes on the religious rights of Hindus and that the government has often misused temple revenues for purposes unrelated to the temples or the welfare of the Hindu community. There is an ongoing debate about whether this control should be relinquished and whether the management of Hindu temples should be handed back to the communities.

Members of Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other Hindu organizations have voiced support for ending government control of temples. For example, in some states where the BJP is in power, there have been calls to return control of temples to Hindu communities.