Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Padmanabhaswamy Temple Treasure

The wealth of Padmanabhaswamy temple has become public knowledge and some consider it the richest temple in the world. The wealth is valued at one lakh crore rupees. We do not know how much wealth other temples have so it is difficult to say which is the richest temple in the world. Till few weeks back people in general did not have any idea about the wealth of Padmanabhaswamy temple.

Opinions are divided about what should be done with the treasure of Padmanabhaswamy temple. Some want the government to take over the treasure. Some want it to remain with the temple. Some want it go to a museum. Some want the assets to be sold and money used for various purposes including charity while some oppose it saying it is very easy to do charity with other people’s money. BJP is opposed to secular governments taking over temple properties. Oomen Chandy, chief minister of Kerala, has said that the treasure will remain with the temple and the matter rests there.

The value of the treasure is notional. If the offerings to temple are not to be sold because of religious beliefs then the value is zero. If the gold coins, chains and other valuables are auctioned then we will know the value. However there is question of demand and supply. When large amount of gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other gems are auctioned their prices will come down and the amount may not be one lakh crore rupees.

Government should not take over temple property and any private property without paying market price unless the property is without owner. How temples spend their money is for people who own or run the temples to decide. The people to whom the temples belong may question the administrators. Temples should not be brought under RTI, more so, when CBI is taken out of the ambit of RTI. Some temples run schools and colleges, hospitals, provide meals and do charitable work.

Two issues are involved: one is religious freedom, second is private property. Taking over a temple property affects religious freedom and if one temple’s property can be taken over, then property of other temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches, synagogues, fire temples and other places of worship can be taken over. If the principle is that since the value of treasure is one lakh crore rupees it should be taken over by the government to do good to the people, same principle can be applied to billionaires in India like Laxmi Niwas Mittal, Anil Agarwal, Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Tatas, Birlas and others.

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