The Treasure Belongs to the HINDUS
A fierce debate brewed Tuesday, 4th July 2011, about what to do with billions of dollars worth of treasures in a popular 16th-century Hindu temple in southern India, even as the trove of newly revealed riches was growing. Inside the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, investigators were counting the staggering hoard of gold coins and statues of gods and goddesses studded with diamonds and other precious stones. Outside, small groups of armed policemen patrolled the temple grounds in the heart of the Kerala state capital, Trivandrum.
The 24 hours channels are debating what should be done with the treasure? There are as many suggestions as the varied participants. Some suggest the money to be used to build schools. Some say it can repay all the debts of the Kerala government. Some others are counting how many kilometer long roads can be built out this booty of one lakh crore and counting. Few dare ask the essential question — whom does the treasure belong?
Eminent Professor of finance IIM Bangalore Dr R Vaidyanathan writes in DNA, “Let’s be clear: these treasures were donated by the temple’s devotees over centuries, and rightfully belong to Lord Vishnu, who cannot even be fully seen from any angle by devotees. He is the true owner of this wealth and this truth should be internalized. It is unfortunate that this discovery should take place in Kerala, where the percentage of idol-worshippers is a minority – if one excluded Muslims, Christians and Marxists from the fold. The mere act of opening up the vaults and tunnels is thus fraught with significant dangers for Hindu society and our ancient civilization.”
This brings us to another very important question had there been any debate if this wealth was found in a place of worship belongong to the Muslims or Christians? All religions should be treated equally before the rule of law. This is basic secular principal enshrined in our constitution. But more often this is neglected for petty political considerations. last year a bill was passed in the parliament to handover the enemy property to their previous owners. The enemy property was the properties belonging to the Pakistani Nationals which they left behind in India while migrating at the time of Partition. These propeties were properly managed by a custodian authority formed by the Enemy Property Act 1965 as per the agreement reached after the Indo-Pak war of 1965. But for the benifit of one individual Raja of Mehmoodabad and the illperceived Vote bank politicals gains the law was amended. The amendment enabled the goernment to hand over the properties to the Nabab. Of 2,100 enemy properties across the country, 1,400 are in Uttar Pradesh alone. And the Raja of Mehmoodabad owns 1,100 of the 1,400 properties falling in UP. So, in effect, the passage of the bill primarily benefited the Raja.
Swamy Padmanabha temple in Kerala being a Hindu temple all these discussions are possible. The logic is extended as to who kept the treasure there in the ancient temple? If it was kept by the Royal Kings of Travancore as has been guessed by some scholars(?) should it become the government property?
There are many ocasions where ownership of many of the Hindu temples is vested in the state goernment and the revenue of the same is collected by the religious endowment departments of the sate. Many ancient Hindu temples need renovation. These are infact the precious cultural heritage not only of our pious land but also of the whole humanity. But the income form Hindu temples is not used for this noble cause. The priests in the state owned temples are paid a paltry amount (a few Hundreds in many states) by the government. There are many cases in state like Tamilnadu where depending on the political inclination of the ruling combine these religious incomes are being used for developments of places of worship of other religions. There are examples that Haj subsidies were distributed from these funds accrued from Devaasaam board Hindu temples. A petition is pending in the supreme court on this issue of misuse of Hindu religious endowments by the government.
As far as the propriety of the treasure discovered in the Padmanabha Temple is considered, the legal position seems to be very clear on this issue. The wealth even if kept in trust with the temple is an offering to the presiding deity of the temple, Padmnabhaswamy in this case. So the propriety must be vested in the Deity. In Bihar State Board of Religious Trust vs. Ramsubaran Das [1996 SCALE (2) 702], the Supreme Court had pointed to ancient revenue records attaching the temple land in the name of the deity. It had said, “That mahants dealt with the properties in their own names does not detract from the fact that the temples were public temples as they would well be said to be dealing with on behalf of the deities to whom the properties are dedicated.”
Legal experts are unanimous that a Hindu idol, as per the long established authority and founded upon religious customs of the Hindus, is a ‘juristic entity,’ and it has ‘juridical status’ with power of suing and be sued. In 1983, Sri Adi Visheshwara of Kashi Vishwanath of Varanasi fought a legal battle in the Supreme Court when the Uttar Pradesh government enacted the Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983, for better management of the ancient temple. The Supreme Court had ruled that a deity could move the court and said: “Properties of endowment vest in the deity Lord Sri Vishwanath.”
Besides the Supreme Court, various High Courts had also recognised the fact that a temple deity would be a legal entity and even a devotee or a regular worshipper could move the court on behalf of the presiding deity, which will be considered a perpetual minor. In the famous Judgement by allahabad High Court in the Ramjanmabhumi Ayodhya case the same was pointed out by the honourable court.
So the rule of law must prevail. The wealth belonging to the Lord Vishnu the deity of the great Swamy Pdmanabha Temple should be leagaly made into an endowment trust and should be used for renovation of neglected Hindu temples all over the country. Many more causes of the Hindu religious places of worship can be benifitted by this trust. Let us remember this is the Dharmabhumi Bharat and Vishnu, the lord of sustanance would sustane the whole nation. Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah.