9.14.2005

Corruption among temple priests at sacred shrines.

Tamil Nadu

Kapaleeshwar kovil, Mylapore:
It is an interesting feature to see that apart from this temple being a place for community services and worship of the deities inside, it displays certain boards that speak a lot of religious intolerance. The boards say "non hindus not allowed". Why? Is it that we consider our Gods so sacred that any non hindu will desecrate the idol? What is the exclusivity for, is it that they are more impure than we are? I dont think so. Lets move on.

Shiva temple Chidambaram:
Here no cameras are allowed, the restrictions are more severe than other places. The boards threaten to confiscate electronic equipment if any such attempts are made to remotely photograph the Lord Nataraja inside. Secondly, there is an additional charge of Rs 30 a head to get onto the platform to get a closer view of the Lord. I dont mind paying but are the priests taking care of the cieling frescoes of the Chola period that have deteriorated with time right at the heart of this temple. Forget that, indians never learnt to preserve their past, they only know how to ape the west. Is the outer prakara of the temple maintained and kept clean? Where does all the money go?

Shiva temple Thiruvannamallai:
Here is another example of corruption at its best. In temples you can see the Lord, maybe from a distance but at least you can see Him. Here, you pay 30 bucks to enter into the inner most hall and sanctum, so if you are a staunch devotee and no money with you, you can be sure that only a miracle can get you through to get a glimpse of the Lord.

Shiva kovil, Sirkali:
Its as simple as it gets here. Apart from all the Nadi Jotsyars who hound you at the temple entrance, with their boards and advertisements, the priest of this temple simply couldnt care less. He would look at you and ask, is there a shrine in there at all? It was one of those places where i could get a view of the Lord with my handy cam with absolutely no objections at all!!! The priest didnt seem to have any ownership towards the shrine at all!

Perumal temple Kanchipuram:
I forgot the main name of this temple, its a large vaishnavite temple, orthodox and you pay for EVERYTHING. The kalyanamandapa stands in teh temple courtyard with the tank next to it. Oxygen levels are really low in the water so all the fish swim up, among the worlds plastics floating in the green waters. BUT, to get a view of the inside of the Kalyanamandapa you pay 5 bucks a head to enter an originally airy mandapa which has now been clothed in thick grills, around it such that even a kitten cant seem to get through. So much for preservation of ancient monuments. The indian priest has learnt to just make money on it and not even attempt preserving it.

Shiva temple Papanasam:
The temple falls bang in the way from Tanjore to Kumbhakonam. Its claim to fame is that Lord Rama is supposed to have worshipped 108 lingas within its walls. A very interesting and unique set of lingas catch your fancy in this temple, which is quite unlike other 108 set of Shiva shrines typically found around Shiva shrines. The price to enter this little hall of Lingas is Rs 20 for 3 people and its your tough luck if you show up with a lesser crowd. So the flat payment is 20 whether you have 3 people in your company or not! Interesting. The man with the ticket has a good belly and is loaded with such lethargy that i wonder if the idol gets a daily abhishekam!

Trichy Rock fort:
Gorgeours place and rottenly maintained. Painted all over with additional 21st century constructions that are more of a blotch in the whole canvas. Ticket is Rs 5 or 10 to enter, per head of course and if you do have a handycam or camera, please pay Rs 50, they will make you pay for it higher up, in case you escape the first time. The good side, you get a few books on the temple history in return, the sad side, its all in tamil, so you better know how to read it!

Srirangam Ranganatha temple:
I was attacted and mauled by senile old priests all above the age of 75, who wanted temple donations all in the name of temple maintenance. The nice part is the temple as compare to others is reasonably well maintained. I also didnt mind paying to get a quick darshan given our ever increasing indian population does pose its problems when it comes to crowd management in temples. Photography is not allowed once you cross the outer 3 prakaras of this gigantic walled temple. The good side, you dont pay for photography where its allowed and most of the imperial chola and vijayanagara sculptural art falls in these prakaras so you really dont miss much.
Point of caution: there are a lot of these old priests who sit around the mandapas and catch any unsuspecting pilgrim and tell them to do a few things before they very deftly guide them around the temple and finally take them towards a room which looks like an office where i suspect you will pay handsomely for some so called "prasadam". I escaped it, i suggest you do the same.

Thiruvanaikkaval temple, Jambukeshwara linga, Srirangam island:
Here the same 75 year old senile men, either beg you to pay for a simple arti, or take Rs 150 or so for a promised closer view for which you anyway pay with a ticket at the counter, think its Rs 10 per head. The good side, you get to see the Lord through a grilled window if you dont pay for a clearer view, given this shrine is a little sunken into the earth and can be entered from a side door which leads into a very small chamber that can house a max of 10 people without priests. The disgusting element is the look of corruption and lethargy on the faces of the priests.

Shiva temple Kalahasti, Vayu Linga:
This is totally hillarious, but i will also assure you, if you are a believer of Rahu Ketu and shani and are told to pay Rs 250 to get any Sarpa Dosha's off your head, please do not believe in these. The Kalahsti temple is a complete fraud deal when it comes to blind faith among their rather gullible audience. There are methods to get over doshas of various kinds, including sarpa doshas but that is a prescribed method that is defined by the family Guru and not just paying through your nose to please the Gods. Typically you would be told to light a ghee lamp at the inner Gajastambha on an auspitious day or give a whole packet of Gingerli oil in the sanctum. Yes to get a closer view of the Vayu linga you have to ay Rs 500 to get to the vestibule of the main shrine sanctum. If not its the standard Rs 30 to get a quick darshan, yes! the joys of over population i should say.

Brihadeshwara temple, Gangaikondacholapuram:
Here, free entrance but no cameras are allowed. You can take your camera inside and sincerely tell the authorities that you dont intend taking pictures of anything in the hall, leave alone the garbha griha, but you can sneak a small shot here and there. Is it worth it? well if you get lucky , yes its completely worth it.

So end of all this, should we hindus pay to see the Lord? Should tourists and non hindus who have come crossing oceans to get a glimpse of the shrines to quench their curiosity of Hinduism be denied this pleasure? If yes, how does it hurt us? Should temples force pilgrims to pay up, when there is a rich hat called Kanchi kamakoti peetam sitting there walloping money to pay for extortion instead of maintaining these jewels of architecture? Should money be asked of every thing a devotee asks for be it a coser view, an archana, or any other form of serious worship?

Last but not the least, should temple priests be allowed to use cell phones while they perform pujas , homams and other sacrifices in honor of householders anywhere?

If this is not corruption what is it, and if we keep silent and allow it, how is it going to improve and make a spiritual change to our lives?


62 comments:

abhilash warrier said...

Dear Kavi,

That bit about where even a kitten cannot get inside was very cute!

And by the way, Lord Rama did not worship the 108 lingas at Paapanasa temple.

Those 108 lingas at Paapanaasa symbolize the 108 lingas he worshipped on the way to Lanka from Ayodhya...

So each linga represents the actual 108 lingas...

I agree that Hinduism is a way of life and is the most tolerant religion. It should continue to live and die without changing its nature.

I know so many non-Hindus (I was one not so long ago) who have entered temples...

Who is a non-Hindu? How do we label anybody as non-Hindu?

I sometimes don't even understand the need for purity and concepts like that.

JC Joshi said...

The information provided by Kavitha may not be infructuous as it could be useful to some visitors who visit the cited locations…

It is ‘Time’ that is at the root of the so-called ‘corruption’ in ‘Nature’. Every material object (including life forms) existing naturally, or apparently created afresh by man, starts deteriorating with time right from its coming into being due to the presence also of the so-called ‘destructive’ forces in the environment. And, hence, the need of measures for ‘preservation’ if one wishes to elongate its life…

If one were to go to depth, one cannot tire marvelling at the minutest possible thought gone behind each and every aspect of Creation, say for example just by the appearance of an army of ants when some material containing sugar falls on the ground. Apparently, for the unconscious, ants didn’t exist in the surroundings all this while!

The beauty of Time is that despite the process of deterioration being continuous every generation feels that their ‘Time’ or their ‘past’ was the only ‘golden’ period! One would therefore need to ‘break the paper walls of day-to-day existence’ to reach at the ‘Truth’ – that’s exactly what the ‘ancients’ appear to have attempted through each and every of their creation, and even through their thoughts and speech as well, which at anytime would be considered as ‘madness’ by the majority!

With the above background, perhaps one could try to remain ever conscious of the ‘divide and rule policy’ in ‘Nature’ - as the basic design principle adopted by the Creator. One could thus perhaps reconsider a small group of ‘Hindus by birth’ & ‘Non Hindus’ (impossible to identify as such) as different from the possible larger group of ‘Hindus by thought’ who could exist anywhere on earth at any time, for Hinduism is a philosophy dealing with the ‘Truth’ of creation...

Only 'Time' would possibly do it!

revathi said...

You have hit the nail on the head. Sometimes I wonder why people go to temples at all. Its hardly the atmosphere for bhakti anymore. As you rightly pointed out, more the visitors, greater the corruption. In this list,you haven't mentioned the one temple which has taken corruption to herculean heights..
Tirupati. Again, I too am against this ban on non-Hindus. It is we Hindus who end up doing sacrilege in our temples. Anyway, who are we to say who should and should not seek divine blessings? A throwback on the achooth system?

revathi said...

You have hit the nail on the head. Sometimes I wonder why people go to temples at all. Its hardly the atmosphere for bhakti anymore. As you rightly pointed out, more the visitors, greater the corruption. In this list,you haven't mentioned the one temple which has taken corruption to herculean heights..
Tirupati. Again, I too am against this ban on non-Hindus. It is we Hindus who end up doing sacrilege in our temples. Anyway, who are we to say who should and should not seek divine blessings? A throwback on the achooth system?

kavitha said...

but of course!

how could i forget tirupati!!!! i gave up with that, i was so depressed it didnt make sense at all...

Anonymous said...

Let us step back and think a little. I am no priest neither am i closely associated with any.
First of all lets ask ourselves the following questions, while we can crib heavily on corruption etc,
Do we believe, that these places of worship are highly important to the society in general and hindus in particular?
If so, would we agree that the role of the priests in these temples are high up in the social order and skill levels (imagine a priest who doesnt know mantras)? (as a background while the dignity of labor is well appreciated, it is of course known in sociology that there are high skill jobs and low skill jobs i.e. a software programmer viz a viz a trash collector)
Do we agree, that in the normal order of society, compensation and lifestyle depends on the value of the job done? (this is again a well propounded sociological theory)?
Do we then believe, that these priests do have a right to aspire for a better lifestyle, a good future for their children, etc in the present day context? in essence, do we agree that the days of bhavati bikshaandehi as a high level pursuit of knowledge are more than over and buried in deep texts?
Do we then believe, that the society, the hindus, and all of us who complain about poor customer service at temples, better views for our cameras to capture pictures for our blogs, have a responsibility to ensure that these priests deserve their place in this material world in the materialistic sense too?
Now lets on an average compare what a priest has viz a viz what us who sit in plush offices, zipping around in cars, etc have? For simplicities sake, let us compare a Mutt head to a reknowned CEO and a priest to a software programmer/project manager etc in terms of hierarchy?
Is it a surprise that such things exist now? If so who is responsible for the corruption? Are we all giving the highly placed "Sacred Shrines" and the low sounding "temple priests" who are in charge of the sacred shrines, the right kind of attention? or are we bothered about our 50 bux?

JC Joshi said...

Well said!

Revathi has perhaps rightly asked why people should go to temples at all when - according to her - environment for ‘bhakti’ or reaching the divine doesn’t exist there anymore.

Yes, apparently we are choosy about everything else in life and as far as our basic needs are concerned, at any given cross section of time, we live in houses and take meals we can afford, and also dress up according to our own choice. We visit an eatery or visit people only if they meet with the standards we have set for ourselves based on our ‘status’ in life at a given time. But, what we generally overlook is the fact that the status in life isn’t permanent - it could change with passage of time, upwards or downwards depending on various factors. Fall in general status of the majority of Black Americans living in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina could perhaps be cited as the latest example in this regard, as time has made us forget the recent Tsunami and many other calamities before that as those didn’t affect some of us...
The ancients called it the result of 'Karma', or fate, or destiny, which inspired them to go to the depth of Astronomy and relationship between Heavenly Bodies and humans as reflected in Astrology, Palmistry, and so on...

It is the ‘fear of the unknown’ that brings men of various ‘levels’ - minus infinity to plus infinity - to zero, or the ‘great leveler’ that is symbolically represented by the places of worship…

Thus it is ‘surrender’, i.e., the ‘zero’ or thoughtless state of mind - wherever one can find inner peace despite the apparent chaos outside - that is more important (as realized by the ‘wise’ ancients).

On the lighter side, in fact many reportedly reach solutions to problems in their life when they are in the loo during ‘brahma muhurta’ or early mornings!

JC Joshi said...

About the 'little' or 'big annoying things' we feel today, I would like to forward a compilation by someone I received on the Internet, which could indicate God's mysterious ways:

The 'L I T T L E' Things

As you might know, the head of a company in the World Trade Towers
survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten.
>>
Another fellow was alive because it was
his turn to bring donuts.
>>
One woman was late because her
alarm clock didn't go off in time.
>>
One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike
because of an auto accident.
>>
One of them missed his bus.
>>
One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.
>>
One's car wouldn't start.
>>
One went back to answer the telephone.
>>
One had a child that dawdled
and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.
>>
One couldn't get a taxi.
>>
The one that struck me was the man
who put on a new pair of shoes that morning,
took the various means to get to work
but before he got there, he developed
a blister on his foot.
He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.
That is why he is alive today.
>>
Now when I am stuck in traffic,
miss an elevator,
turn back to answer a ringing telephone...
all the little things that annoy me.
I think to myself,
this is exactly where
God wants me to be
at this very moment..
>>
Next time your morning seems to be
going wrong,
the children are slow getting dressed,
you can't seem to find the car keys,
you hit every traffic light,
don't get mad or frustrated;
>>
God is at work watching over you.
May God continue to bless you
with all those annoying little things
and may you remember their possible purpose.

kavitha said...

Hi anonymous,

from what i understand of your arguement, priests are people who look up to a materialistic life like the rest of us. And given the attention they receive right now, its not that bright a future compare to say a programmer. (so i suppose its ok for them to be the way they are)

you refer to a point that has quite taken every man's fancy. A BETTER LUXURIOUS LIFESTYLE with fewer problems(financially).Point well made from only that perspective.

Now let me ask, is a materialistic lifestyle the only thing we all want or for that matter the priests want, given they quite missed the bus, and that money can be actually made pretty easily and "oh god why am i a priest and not a programmer in this age?"

Now from my perspective riches need not be necessarily be materialistic, but yes it is the most attractive and easily earned, compare to spiritual knowledge which requires hard work with no promise on quick tangible results.

there seems to be no room for intellectuality, for knowledge, for self evolution towards attaining "nirvana - supreme state". maybe that concept exists or it doesnt, i believe it does, maybe you dont have time to believe in it, or you want proof to start believing in it.

What has the role of the temple priest been? Its not just about performance of pujas, its not about temple maintenance, its not about running a community center, inclined towards religion. NO. the role of a priest was exclusive. He learnt the ancient texts about how a person needs to lead a life, of goodness, of respect within a social order.

It didnt stop with that, it also deals with occult sciences, which are beyond the sphere of western system of logic which basically questions the very existance of anything if it doesn't fulfill the basic requirements of the senses. Western system of education(of which we are all slaves)eliminates the presence/existance of anything that cannot be scientifically proven, i.e.cannot be seen, smelt, tasted, touched or heard.

But there is a whole world out there that the west seems to have missed out and our ancients have already discovered, the knowledge of which has been buried in sacred texts in a cryptic language currently only understood by trained priests. So the role of the priest is far more vast that you think.

it is about delivering the subtle knowledge to the masses (i.e.you and me, the ignorant fools)and making sure that society is evolving spiritually. What are we here for??? have you forgotten the question "WHO AM I" you asked yourself when you were 20?(am assuming you are now above 20)

Now materialism has taken over, and spiritualism has given way to it. The tone of society is "i rahter be rich than evolved, i look for a better lifestyle with money than with human values."

Why am i cheesed off with priests, because i can see that lost knowledge of our ancients profusely carved over all our temple walls, painted, written, performed in the arts of song and dance and the priests simply dont have the patience to tell the masses what its all about!!!! our ancients didnt carve out temples for NOTHING.

I know what a priest is suppose to do, because i am neck deep in finding it out for myself and i know i will do a better job than them, and money is really secondary...

i rather lead a life with values and respect for rich ancient systems of evolved living and be intrigued by its surprizes than worry about whether i can keep my job and pay for my car loan tomorrow!!!!

JC Joshi said...

As I have said elsewhere also, every individual develops different view points, on various aspects of life, based on the exposure one receives through various sources that one comes across as one grows up. It is a continuous process and the view point could change abruptly at any stage depending on certain happenings in ‘future’. Another person might find these view points at a given point of time generally similar to his, or having the same ‘frequency’ that could result in development of good understanding between the two. Or, maybe these are diametrically opposite to his, which could lead to a ‘personality clash’ or even life-long animosity between the two…

Without going into its details I am to mention that the ancients attributed this to the concerned individuals having as control in the first case friendly planets and in the latter planets of opposite nature. They rated a specific planet as either ‘hot’ or ‘cold’…

Now, as per commonly accepted observations about human life at any time, ‘life’ is not about ‘material’ alone ("Man does not live by bread alone."). There also exists an abstract side to the physical world in so far as we human beings are concerned...

One might possess millions of rupees and yet might be unhappy due apparently to some one reason or the other, and a ‘fakir’ who has no material possession might be the happiest person with no worries at all... It isn’t that the ancients went out only for the ‘spiritual’ aspect, as this component that is non-susceptible of measurement in physically quantifiable terms is called. They expressed it in terms of 'happiness', which - they expressed - has a potential of reaching ‘eternal bliss’ when one reached ‘supreme knowledge’, ‘self realization’ or ‘siddhi’ through 'Yoga' or union of body, mind and spirit, all three together.

It was, however, believed that the simplest way to achieve this is for one to give up the thought of being the doer oneself, and ‘surrender’ and accept that the real doer is the one that is omnipotent and omnipresent, the unborn and the unending, and so on… The answer to the basic question, “Who am I”, as “I am Him” could then be realized automatically together with the realization that ‘the world is a market where only lies are sold’, i.e., it is only ‘Maya’ or an illusion, a dream seen by Him who alone in fact exists, and ‘I’ am only a deceptive image in my own dreams!

As per indications in Hindu mythological stories, any ordinary householder, on reaching ‘sanyas’ or retirement from active life, after a few years of ‘tapasya’ or stay in the Himalayas or ‘far from the madding crowd’ could achieve ‘supreme knowledge’!

The question therefore is: Are we prepared to surrender in Him? Or, in other words, when will Time take all us humans into Satyuga once again? I think only time can tell that!

Anonymous said...

Apologize for the CAPS! only intended for differentiating.
>>>>>from what i understand of your arguement, priests are people who...
My thought was Priests are People! Whether they do or do not look up to material life is upto them but my question was DO THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO? If so DO THEY HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO GIVEN THE CURRENT COMPENSATION FOR THEIR CAREER in the social order.

(...ok for them to be the way they are) SHOULD IT BE OKAY FOR THEM TO BE THE WAY THEY ARE OR DO THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO ASPIRE FOR A BETTER LIFE?


Now let me ask, ...god why am i a priest and not a programmer in this age?" SO AS A MEMBER OF SOCIETY ARE YOU SAYING BEING A PRIEST IS MISSING THE BUS? IS THIS A REFLECTION OF THE SOCIETY IN GENERAL? IF NOT AND SOCIETY BELIEVES A PRIESTS JOB IS CLOSE TO THE IMPORTANCE LEVEL OF A PROGRAMMERS SHOULD THE PRIEST ALSO BE ADEQUATELY COMPENSATED OR NOT? CONNECT LIFESTYLE (I.E. MONEY) TO THE STATUS OF THE ROLE PERFORMED...

Now from my perspective riches ... tangible results. WHILE POETICALLY IDEALISTIC, IT IS ALWAYS EASY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE MATERIALISTIC LIFE TO SAY KNOWLEDGE IS IMPORTANT MONEY IS NOT! ASK SOMEONE WHO IS REELING UNDER NEAR POVERTY WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT. TRUTH MIGHT HURT!

>>>there seems to be no room for intellectuality, for knowledge, for self evolution towards attaining "nirvana - supreme state". maybe that concept exists or it doesnt, i believe it does, maybe you dont have time to believe in it, or you want proof to start believing in it. BULLSHIT! BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO SOMEONE WHO IS HUNGRY, WHOSE KIDS COME BACK HOME TO TELL THAT THIER FRIENDS MADE FUN OF THEM COZ THIER CLOTHES AND SHOES ARE OLD? SELF EVOLVE? INTELLECTUALITY DOESNT FILL THAT YAWNING GAP OF BASIC SOCIAL STATUS OR HUNGER FOR THAT MATTER!

What has the role of the temple priest been? ...respect within a social order. WHATEVER IT HAS BEEN! DOES IT DESERVE THE SAME KIND OF RESPECT, COMPENSATION, STATUS WITHIN SOCIETY COMPARED TO MONEY SPINNING JOBS? IF SO IS SOCIETY DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT

It didnt stop with that, it also deals with occult sciences, which are beyond the sphere of ... the role of the priest is far more vast that you think. WHY DONT YOU BECOME A PRIEST AND LIVE THE LIFE HE IS LEADING? MAYBE YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY HE ASKS 30 BUX AS BRIBE!


Now materialism has taken over, and spiritualism has given way to it. IS IT A CLASSIC CASE OF THE BETTER CONCEPT SURVIVES???

Why am i cheesed off with priests, because i can see that ...for NOTHING. WHY SHOULD THEY IF THE MASSES DONT TREAT THEM WITH ENOUGH RESPECT? HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU TOLD A FORIEGNER FRIEND OF YOURS WHO WANTED TO PHOTOGRAPH THE SANCTUM SANCTORUM OF A TEMPLE THAT IT SHOULD NOT BE PHOTOGRAPHED COZ THE ESSENCE IS TRAVELLING TO THE PLACE TO VISIT IT WHICH MAKES IT WORTHWHILE OR HAVE YOU TOLD DONT WORRY WE PAY SOME MONEY AND ARRANGE IT?
WHY SHOULD THEY IF THEIR BASIC NECESSITIES ARE NOT MET AND THE MASSES ARE ALWAYS IN A HURRY TO FINISH DARSHAN AND STILL MAKE THE COCKTAIL PARTY NEXT DAY? DO YOU WANT SPIRITUAL FAST FOOD?

I know ... money is really secondary... AGAIN TELL THAT WHEN YOU DONT HAVE THE MONEY NOT WHEN YOU HAVE IT!

i rather lead a life with ...car loan tomorrow!!!! LEAD IT WITH VALUE! ASK THE PRIEST WHO YOU AVOIDED! (DEFTLY SO TOO cONGRATULATIONS!) WHAT HIS PERSONAL PROBLEMS ARE AND OFFER TO MONETARILY TAKE CARE OF HIS NEEDS..THEN SEE IF HE STILL TRIES TO MAKE PEOPLE PAY A HANDSOME SUM FOR THE SOCALLED PRASADM! TRY MAKING THAT CHANGE? SEE IF CORRUPTION COMES DOWN ATLEAST ON PART OF ONE PRIEST?

JC Joshi said...

What a 'coincidence', or 'design', that today it is ‘Anant Chaturdasi’ the last day of the festival dedicated to ‘Ganesha’, the all knowing son of Shiva-Parvati, and we have here possibly an unending or anant discussion on hand!

As I have said elsewhere also - with reference to the commonly observed phenomenon of ‘moths getting attracted to a burning flame’ - that a particular event might have different view points from different ‘experts’, each sounding as the possible ‘truth’.

However, humans seem to have generally remained undecided who will judge which particular one is the ‘Absolute Truth’. Conscious of God’s mysterious ways, St. Matthew said, “Judge not that ye be not judged” while the ‘Hindu Yogis’, after wading through unending ocean of words, eventually seem to have come to the conclusion that the entire physical universe and associated 'thoughts', and therefore 'actions' too were illusory, a result of cobweb like ‘Maya’ spun by the eight handed spider like Gauri (white light containing within it the colourful rainbow?)

Realization of the apparently relatively recent 'scientific fact' that microcosm functions similar to the macrocosm, one could read the 'Natural phenomenoa' to form one's own opinions about the 'truth' of human life also. For example, one could believe that water that covers major part of the earth symbolically represents the space that covers about 85% of the estimated volume of the universe... Although there are numerous models, one could perhaps then see represntation of behaviour of life forms even through floating logs of woods in river waters that move towards the common goal, the ocean, and get stuck up on the banks, islands, etc, or go round in eddies from one to another near the banks...

One is however supposed to realize it oneself in his own way for narrowing the gap between the self and Him!

Best wishes on the holy day!

kavitha said...

good point made anonymous, but let me enlighten you about a few things. i am NOT rich, and i have been through hunger. I do not have dependents in the real sense, but i have had more than my fair share of thrashes with fate for a life time.

i am another middle class nut aspiring to be a millionaire tomorrow. but while that remains a dream, reality has taught me other lessons.

i have continued this arguement in another post. i would appreciate it if you would for a moment look at everythign that makes a good life, not just materialism.

krishna said...

Thanks 4 the interesting account on the disturbing and debasing trends in the hindu temples ..

btw,i dont think all the temples are under the direct control of kamakoti peetam..

i think if the temples could be managed by devout organizations devoid of greed for money, most of the problems would be solved

Saravana Kumar said...

Kavitha .. true it gives me great pain because of all these things in the society .. temples such as these are supposed to be guiding the society .. but see whats happening in the temples .. if it be so where you think the society is going towards .. My anger knows no bounds .. deep inside I'm crying

Rama said...

Re: Annonymous

I agree with your views and am happy that someone posted these. Of course it is widespread today to use priests only as tokens (wonder when this will disappear too). If there is a job, job satisfaction is important. One can imagine a school teacher who tries to teach a class and finds everybody not only sleeping but also having the ability to fire him if the teacher dares to wake them up. This is the state of the pujaris/priests today. Sometimes upstarts with partial knowledge claim that they are being duped without any idea of what is going on. To further the woes, more temples are "govt. administered" meaning the priests are marginalized.

My point is that those who comment would be totally incapable of filling the roles of the priests they damn. Not that they would be interested as everyone wants a better life. At this point (of course I would acknowledge that there would be exceptions)it is worth considering the priest who chose to be one after putting in years to understand the temple and the religion and is treated with contempt for this. To top it all, their investment in knowledge, public service (that is what they end up doing) by performing pujas for the clueless people results in a uncertain future and ridicule (both state sponsored and by society). In such a state any human subject to pressures from all sides could crack a bit and try to make some money for his services. I really appreciate the people who give as much dakshina that they can afford and also appreciate the effort that the priest puts in on their behalf.

In the above, I do mention that there are exceptions and I in no way condone caste coming into the temple or any ostracism. I also have a feeling that after destruction of many temples at the hands of non-hindus has resulted in the somewhat closed attitudes of the temples. Also, I do not condone demands of money but rather see the desparation of the priests who are thanklessly toiling.

On the other hand, people who are not allowed to photograph at temples should first find out why this is so. There could be many reasons. One I feel is that a photograph of the beloved deities misplaced/torn/thrown away would not make the devotees happy.

As for the view that the temple atmosphere does not allow bhakti, I feel sad that people are not bhakt at all for bhakti should be strong enough to rise above such concerns. Where are the people who used to trek in snow and mountains for just a darshan of Kedarnath or Badrinath and be very delighted about it. I think the people who complain more are those who go to the temple more to find fault rather than see god for then why should they feel a decrease in bhakti.

On a positive note, i have seen the temple at Pandharpur where the poor come in great numbers and the people are nice and stand in loooong lines just so taht they can have a glimplse of the lord and be happy (the devotees spend just about 1 minute on average). I wish i was as devoted as they are.

Anonymous said...

sorry for being anonymous (do not have time to create identity)

Is it time to for new religion? Do temples pay income tax? Should they pay income tax? Isn't economics playing more important role than religion?

Unfortunately, my answer is India is not yet ready for this change. Is there a solution to this problem? Is it a problem?

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WiseYogi said...

Hi Kavitha,

Corruption amongst priests (or for that matter anywhere else at all) is a symptom, not a cause for the degradation of cultural values. In my own opinion, when value systems change over time, old values get threatened, and as a consequence, corruption or whatever one may chose to call it, becomes a seemingly inevitable option to ensure survival.

The other point is, there isn't a culture in the world that has thrived spiritually on a empty stomach! Just observe the major world religions around. Observe that the cultures that have developed the most spiritually have done so in times of economic and social prosperity. In order to be spiritual, economic and social well being is equally paramount.

So, if the priests feel left out in the present day context of material greed, it is a reflection of their insecurities amidst an ever increasingly uncaring and insensitive world.

However, there are other socio-political reasons for the continuous eroding of Hindu values, which I'll touch upon another time.

ranga said...

Dear Kavitha and all others on this topic,
Well, the I have a few comments on the above for you all to ponder because, I belong to the Chilkur Balaji Temple in Hyderabad, India, which has done away with the system of Cash Offerings in the Temple and ofcourse the Priests over here also do not take anything from the Devotees.
Coming to the point of the Collection of Money in various other Temples as listed by Kavitha, well they all are run by the State Governments and not by the Priests. The Priests in no way decide who comes in and who goes out because unfortunately, Hindu Temples in India and especially in South India are run by the Government. So they have made it the most Commercial enterprises. The Government does not do anything in protecting these monuments but swallows all the income from the Temples to be eaten by the Politicians who man the Trust Boards.
All the above is not seen by the devotee but the poor priest who ekes out a living by begging in front of his own deity to feed his kids and himself just because fortunately or unfortunately, Kavitha cannot take care of all the temples despite being less greedy for money and more interested in the Service of humans.
We at Chilkur wanted to put an end to all this Hara Kiri by the Government in removing the Hundi and cash Offerings.
You can visit www.Chilkurbalaji.org for more details.
Lastly, I , Rangarajan agree with Kavitha on one aspect, regarding the role of the Priest as I am one.
"The Priest or Archaka has an intimate relationship with the Idol and he worships because it is his duty to serve the deity. An Archaka is distinguished by his austerity, penance, devotion, commitment, selflessness and discipline. He is responsible for the welfare of the people, which his worship is said to be meant for. Infact, the divinity in the idol, sanctity of the shrine and their benefits to the devotees are all derived from the personality of the Archaka and the worship he conducts. If he becomes greedy for money, he loses the right to be an Archaka and no benefits would reslut from his worship- Ananda Samhita"
The above quotation is the transalted version from Ananda Samhita one of the Doctrines of Temple Worship. Well, the assumption is that the society would take good care of the needs of the Priest but, In South India, there are 1,24, 560 Temples with less tha Rs 25,000 Annual Income. Imagine the plight of the Archakas working in them. The service conditions are pathetic and I invite Kavitha to go to less known temples which are 1000 years old but do not have even lamps lit in them for months together.
Any takers??????
Rangarajan

kavitha said...

thanks Ranga,

that was extremely enlightening and very depressing at the same time. Yet i do feel that the priests should not give up of serious worship for the sake of greed.

a priest is a man who is close to have renounced his material life for the service of god and i still feel priests are not doing a fair job of that.

politicians - well honestly i never respected them so i have nothing to say about them.

regds
kavitha

btw.. that comment sounded too formal...

JC Joshi said...

The essence expressed in just three words, “Satyam Shivam Sunderam” could have perhaps helped to enter the mind of the ancient ‘wise Hindus’ had ‘time’ not played the role of the ‘villain’.

As a ‘famous’ Astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle, also said, to the effect, the problem for the present day ‘scientists’ (or the present day seekers of ‘truth’ from scratch) was the abundance of data, which needed to be considered before any new idea could be released. According to him, the scientists in the past could easily float a hypothesis about a ‘natural’ phenomenon, for the later generation to improve upon it as newer findings became available with the passage of time…

Going through similar data over long spans of time, perhaps reading in their ‘mind’s eye’, the ancients appear to have reached the expected behaviour of humans - as ‘instruments’, or as living temples of the God within, for communicating the essence of truth of creation of the apparent physical universe - with efficiency reducing (or corruption) with respect to the passage of apparent time that came into existence with the appearance of Brahma or our SUN, the essence of stars…

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ghost said...

Dear Kavitha (All),

Like Mr. J has said in another post, man fulfills hunger and basic needs before looking into higher meanings. Priests in Malaysia (mostly from
India) are not as desperate as the ones you have mentioned, but every now and then you get people crossing the line. Perspectively basic needs of any priest in this world is taken care off. Why? coz we are asians, quick to sympathize and offer a lending hand. Gullible.?? Maybe.

Okey basic need is sorted out. Higher meaning to what their role in our complicated society. "Tolil Tharmam" or Job Tharma...
what do you all think is running in these priests head...questions like why am I doing this...what is the point i want to achieve....where do I want to be in 10 years...am I better today than yesterday...etc..?

Or are these questions absent..?

What about the programmer... does he/she thinks about his/her higher meaning..? Absent too?

I feel there is a system of tolerance and acceptance that we have approved as the right thing to do in our daily lives. Even though every now and then we feel the frustration of this materialstic sytem, afer a short fuzz.. we neatly que up back in the line...

Breaking away is possible. In fact its easy.. at least I think..

Kavitha, contribute to the corruption in the temples.. like a whole day... give out a large sum of money and indulge in the special attention....just for one day...

Anonymous, you may perhaps show your dissapointment to the priests by refusing to pay the lil extra and que up with the mass. Do it with full attenntion on God... just for one day...

By doing the opposite of your respective standings... perhaps we would understand more of Mr.J's Maya Madness of Kaliyuga.

Allow yourselves to run backwards in your self-desgined rat race...just for a while....who knows...for all we know its a cycle...!!!

I have tried a similar thing on nature related standing of my own.. went the other way for a while.... just to see if I am who I say I am. Nothing much happened...

in the end I had an unexplainable smile creeping on my face.... i think it can be called micro-enlightment.


Cheer people

Rgds

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I hope you don't mind my leaving a comment to an old entry, but I felt this would be a good place to seek opinion on what was on top of my mind. I am a Hindu from North India, and this morning (only about a couple of hours ago in fact) I visited the Kapaleeshwar temple for the first time. I was apalled by the "Non-Hindus not allowed inside" signs, and all my enthusiasm about visiting a well-known temple vanished. I have never seen such a thing before. Is this is a common phenomenon in South India? If not, what is the reason for such an un-Hindu practice in this temple? And if yes (though I haven't seen it in the Parthasarathy Temple which I visited earlier), again, why such a disconnect with the Hindu philosophy and worldview in the region? I'm feeling very disturbed about this; hope you can shed some light on what's going on. Thank you for your post and your blog btw, it is very interesting and informative.
-- Amit

Kavitha said...

Hi Amit

Lets first get to the point. YOu visited a temple because you wanted to see the Supreme. Why did the sign boards and priests bother you?

Hard question i know :) but thats precisely the point i want to drive home. Amit, we cannot change the times, this is Kaliyuga and the keepers of the faith - the priests at the temples are not interested in the sacredness of the temple, they simply are doing a job.

There are many atrocities taking place, worse ones than the one you pointed out... too many to feel hurt about.

The bottom line is, you ARE, you exist and therefore you too are a keeper of the faith. Lets dwell into the depths of this faith on our own, in our own world within our mind and lets not let the outside world affect it. There will be more disasters... but let us try to keep our faith and survive the atrocities.

I used to be angry myself, when i saw the non hindu not allowed sign board, but there is little i could do to change it. I can fight, i can argue, but can i change anyone... no.. but i can do one thing that is beyond the control of the people out there... I can keep my faith living.

I dont know if you will understand this thought... look out for my latest post... and it might give you some insight.

Regards
Kavitha

Anonymous said...

Hi Kavitha,

Thanks for your kind reply, and apologies for responding late in turn.

I completely understand your sentiment, and agree with your suggested approach. That's more or less my attitude too. I did feel taken aback at the signboards, but prevented myself from being excessively bothered by it and carried on with what I had gone to the temple for.

That being said, while our real retreat is only within, we should also be able to use that source within to order our actions outside. You know, keeping the balance between Sreyas and Preyas on the lines described in the Gita. There may be "little we can do," but we shouldn't let our pessimism about the result keep us from acting the right way, no matter how insignificant the effect of it. I mean we shouldn't get agitated, of course, but let's keep doing our bit, in sensible, gradual, ways, to work towards keeping the practice of our religion close to its spirit.

Hope I make some sense and haven't spoken too much :P Thank you for your very interesting and informative blog. I intend to continue following it in future too :)

Regards,
Amit