Temples, mosques, churches and money

Cross posted at Mutiny

If I were to ask any ordinary malayalee, if Kerala is a secular state or not, the answer will be an outright yes. The state hasn’t witnessed religious tension for a very long time as Hindus, Muslims and Christians co-exist here celebrating each others festivals with much joy (in front of the television of course!). But after speaking to a friend of mine I am having second thoughts on the secular nature of the Govt in Kerala.

Why oh why, should the govt have rights over all the money that comes into the temples in Kerala? In other words, why does the govt have control over the devaswams (a body that makes revenue, administrative decisions, for temples)?
In other words why is Kerala govt concerned solely about the money that comes into Hindu temples alone? Why don’t they form devaswams like body for churches and mosques in Kerala? Why?

Is this secularism? Can this be even considered to be a secular act? Why does the govt have to keep a tab on what temples are doing with their money, when no such attempt is made with churches and mosques?

So should govt have a say over monetary transactions of religious institutions at all? I would say yes to that. Because having an eye on the administrative functions of religious bodies, govt can control religious extremism which might originate within the closed doors of religious institutions.

So where has the Kerala govt gone wrong? In not making the law applicable for all religions? In other states, this wouldn’t be such a big issue because of the fact that followers of Christianity and Islam form a minority. But in Kerala Muslims and Christians together form almost 40% of the population, while in many areas they form a majority. Also, many of these institutions receive flurry of money in form of donations from malayalees settled abroad. Their income may not be as big as that of the devaswams; but they are still pretty high.

Is it right to let huge sums of money go unaccounted? No, they create problems for these religious institutions. We have already heard enough allegations (even on mutiny) on how church is misusing funding so availed for conversion and how mosques might be encouraging extremism!

Can’t govt put an end to all this by making it a LAW*, than a biased restriction?

* By LAW I mean a rule that is applicable to everyone and not to a particular class of society alone.

PS: The ‘friend’ I mentioned in the first paragraph is son of a Devaswam employee

10 responses to “Temples, mosques, churches and money”
  1. dinsan Avatar

    Okay, this was a question, moving around here these days.. I am unsure of what the solution can be, or how this can be sorted out etc etc… but I think I know something about that “why”

    If you go through Kerala history, temple and its wealth, and income had always connection with the King…I will have to go back to my history text books from Uty to give you more info 😉

  2. | Balu | Avatar

    the govt took over the administrative responsibility of the temple from the ruling families alright.. and they created devaswams.. the question is, when will thee devaswmans be independent of the state govt?

  3. xylene Avatar

    Question is why.
    Answer is money.

    I guess you know that answer already, but the question on why govt is controlling just the temples alone, am not very sure. Thats a good q to ask. Like Dinsan mentioned, may be coz the temples were controlled by the kings and now the govt.
    For churches, its been owned by the members of the church alone. the high court have ruled that the individual churches belong to the members of that church and not by any bishop or anyone else. And I dont think the govt can interfere, except for taxes ofcourse !
    So I think there is less control over there.
    I am not sure about how the membership at temples are defined? or are they any? does all the temples come under devasom board?

  4. | Balu | Avatar

    Ya almost all temples come under one devaswam or the other, Guruvayur being the biggest, strongest. Membership at temples.. hmmm in earlier days most temples were part of a family! So i guess that’s one way to look at it.. but it wouldnt be apt for modern world (liberal modern world)

  5. xylene Avatar

    yeah even churches were part of a family (the only diff is that the families used to pay for the expenses of the church, give land, support construction etc).
    I am with you and I guess govt should just leave things to the board and not interfere in everything.

  6. | Balu | Avatar

    That was almost the case with temples as well.. for ex our taravadu temple is now public property, there is an independent committee to take care of it and so.. earlier family used to take care of all the expenses… we still do provide a lot of money… after all its a family temple!
    The main reason for the downfall of the system is the ‘extinction’ of joint families. Only the senior members of the family are in the village now!
    sheesh! Thats what inspired me to start a family blog!

  7. Ruhi Avatar

    I can’t really comment on this issue because I don’t know much about Kerala. From what you’ve said in the post, I do feel that you’re correct. I don’t know if the Govt. can do the same with Churches. If they can’t , then they should leave temples alone too.

  8. | Balu | Avatar

    I hope the govt acts soon.. for there is a building anger within a large community against it’s continuation.. when the ruling families were stripped off the power, the govt did the right thing by stepping in, but now its high time they gave it back!

  9. dinsan Avatar

    @ Balu & Ruhi

    I dont think Govt can do something real soon coz there is a lot of politics ( read corruption ) involved in this dewasam matters now .. its worth crores …

  10. | Balu | Avatar

    @ Dinsan
    I agree abt the corruption… but it is the govt presense that has fuelled it!

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