Many battles have been fought in the Indian courts against the illegal take over of temple & its administration over the years
There is a famous quote attributed to Jack Welch as it says “Control Your Own Destiny or Someone else Will.” This is so true in the case of Hindus and their control over the temples. Be it from the time of the invaders, the Mughals, and the British later on, the temples of India have been the target of loot, plunder, and gross misappropriation of funds. This is evident from the loot that is displayed in the museums & art galleries of the world.
Indians, post-independence, hoped that this looting & plundering would stop now that they became independent. Alas, little did they realize that this culture of looting will only increase, albeit by their own kind.
Many battles have been fought in the Indian courts against the illegal take over of the temple & its administration over the years. With great thanks to a few landmark victories like the Dr. Subramanian Swamy Vs State of Tamilnadu, they have started to turn the tide ever so slightly towards taking back the control from the government.
In an interview with The Indian Express, the Sankaracharya said, “On the one hand, the CM refuses skull caps. On the other hand, he tries to cut wings of Hindu institutions and temples through the Gujarat Public Trust Act.
Many bottles of ink, reams of paper & bytes of data have been spent by hard-working individuals to fight the draconian government control of temples, each worthy of its own epic.
In 2014, the Hindus in India voted a Hindu Majority government headed by Narendra Modi, hoping that this illegal plunder would come to an end. While many Non-BJP states continued to enact more laws to take control of more temples, especially in Southern India, where looting temples became an accepted practice. Examples include the world-famous temples of Sabarimala & Padmanabaswamy temples in Kerala & the Tirumala Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh.
Then came a shocker in 2011. A BJP ruled state led by none other than the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, in 2011 passed the “Gujarat Public Trust Act 2011” to take over temples and trusts. This superseded the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950.
There were vociferous protests from all Hindu sampradayas across the state and the country. In fact, the Sankaracharya of Dwarka Peet Pujyashri Swaroopand Saraswati slammed this move. In an interview with The Indian Express, the Sankaracharya said, “On the one hand, the CM refuses skull caps. On the other hand, he tries to cut wings of Hindu institutions and temples through the Gujarat Public Trust Act. When saints are forced to do agitation, what kind of Sadbhavana is it? The mission has no meaning at all.”
Bowing to the mounting pressure the Modi government repealed the act in early 2012.
Alas, this repeal had little effect as in November 2012, the same government took over 30 temples in Bhavnagar district and bringing the tally of temples under government control, to nearly 250 temples. The cheeky reasoning was given, by the then Tourism Minister Jay Narayan Vyas to a question in the state assembly in which Vyas stated that the state government, till January 2012, had administrative control over 244 major temples in 16 districts, which were now being managed by government-appointed administrators. So instead of “government-administered”, it was “government-appointed administrators.”
The bottom line is this. If the Hindus elected a Hindus Majority government in BJP to get rid of this practice of government control of temples, why are we seeing more of it and that too from BJP led states?
Earlier in 2008, the same Modi-led government in Gujarat, in its development mantra (sic!) demolished about 150 plus temples. This caused a furor and prompted the then VHP President Shri Ashok Singhal to say “The Gujarat government is acting like Aurangzeb”. Modi, who was on a visit abroad, rushed back & halted further demolition, bowing to the mounting pressure.
In 2018, the BJP government in Maharashtra courted more controversy by passing an act to take over the famed Shani Shingnapur temple, namely “The Shree Shanaishwar Devasthan Trust (Shingnapur) Act, 2018.
Fast forward to 2020, the BJP led Uttarakhand government under Trivendra Singh Rawat, passed an act to take over the 50 plus temples including the Char Dham. The Sants and Mahants have raised protests and have demanded that the government abrogate the act. This illegal act is now being challenged in the Uttarakhand High court, again by Dr. Subramanian Swamy.
The bottom line is this. If the Hindus elected a Hindus Majority government in BJP to get rid of this practice of government control of temples, why are we seeing more of it and that too from BJP led states? With more than 75% of the population, are we Hindus incompetent to find a way to manage our own temples?
There have been fervent cries for help from all parts of World to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end this practice & free Hindu temple from government control, be it the adverse decision by the Honorable Supreme Court in Sabarimala case, the interference of government in Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD). This cause has now degenerated to a “Poll/election Jhumela”. Nothing more. The Hindus are being betrayed by the very party they elected to help them.
Temples, attracting devotees by the millions, have become the easy target to meet fiscal deficits, development work under that garb of providing “Better Administration”
Its time to “Take Control” of our temples or we will continue to be looted, plundered & destroyed. We have to work to quell this insatiable appetite of the government (BJP or otherwise) and pass an ordinance to abolish all Acts or Laws across the country that control our temples.
Let us take a pledge and say that No place of worship should be controlled by the government.
I would like to thank Shri Jagdish Shetty & T R Ramesh who also helped me in collating the data for this article.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 Dwarka seer slams Modi move to rein in trusts, NGOs – Jan 07, 2012, Indian Express
 Religious leaders greets CM for the decision of abrogating Gujarat Public Trust Act – Feb 14, 2012, Narendra Modi
 Maharashtra govt to take control of Shani Shingnapur temple – Jun 21, 2018, India Times
 Won’t budge on demand for temple Act abrogation: Uttarakhand priests to CM – Feb 27, 2020, The Tribune