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Monday, March 20, 2023

Icon Centers of Tamil Nadu HR&CE – Boon or Bane?

Malik kafur, a barbaric Muslim general invaded Dakshin Bharat in 1311 and unleashed a period of terror on Hindus and their culture. His name could have been known in our history with the title of destroyer of Hindu temples had the HR&CE department of Tamil Nadu Government had not taken over the administration of temples destroying them at a level many times greater than Kafur himself.

HR&CE took over the administration of Hindu temples only to look into the secular aspects, but it has been a BIG ZERO on that aspect too. They control huge revenue from acres of Temple lands, hundi collections, state donations, Ubayadharar (Donors) collection to name a few. Despite of all this the condition of the Hindu Temple is, for the lack of a better word, a complete disaster under them. The latest feather in the cap of HR &CE atrocities is creation of icon centers and interfering in the Ritual/Religious aspects of the Temples, on which they have no control as per the Constitution of Bharat.

Icon Centers:

The spate of robberies of antique murtis from unprotected and temples currently lying without any worship under HR&CE prompted the department to establish Icon centers in major temples of Tamil Nadu. But the process, right from the establishment, to the procedure followed in “securing“ the murtis, reeks of blatant violation of Agamic traditions and faith of millions of Hindus.

Some serious concerns include –

  1. How does HR&CE identify which temple is unprotected or without any worship being offered to shift the murthis to the Icon Centers?
  2. Non-adherence to Agamic principles pertaining to the respective murti while shifting to the Icon center. Murtis belonging to various agamas are dumped together, which is a violation of agamic rules. Also pooja and prasadam are not offered to these murtis properly .
  3. There is no fixed time period within which the murtis will be returned to the temple from the icon center. This raises serious doubts over the ability of HR&CE to provide security to the temples under its administration.
  4. But above all the biggest concern is the safety of murtis in the Icon centre itself! Numerous reports of HR&CE officials involved in the theft of murtis have been making the headlines in media. These reports are of no solace to the devotees. Instead it has given rise to the question “DO WE NEED HR&CE?”. Murtis deposited by the villagers, supposedly with the assurance of its safety in icon centers have found their way to museums and private collectors all over the world via smugglers with the help of HR&CE Officials.


Here are the certain measures, the HR&CE should put in place to ensure that the sanctity and safety of murtis in village temples and Icon centers is restored –

  1. The HR&CE should put some thought into to protecting the vulnerable village temples with the huge amount of funds at its disposal – the most logical solution to the problem instead of the painful process of shifting the murtis . Remote surveillance of village temples can be implemented.(At present local villagers pool the money.)
  1. In an inevitable situation if the HR&CE is compelled to shift the murtis, there should be absolute adherence to the agama principles. A murti on Praana-Pratishta (installation) gets 100% of its jeeva (life) and starts to radiate its energy to its precincts. The agamas prescribe that rituals/poojas specified under each agama must be necessarily performed by the person qualified in the said particular agama. For example a person qualified in Shaiva agama should not perform Poojas for murthis belonging to vaishnava or shakta agama. This applies to subsect within a particular agama sect like Panchatantra and Vaikanasa agamas of vaishnava agama. Here a person qualified to perform Panchatantra agama cannot perform poojas to murtis of Vaikansa agama. Totally, there are about 28 shaiva agamas and more than 200 schools of vaishnava agamas. Therefore it is of utmost importance that there is no deviation or foregoing of the procedure involved while shifting of murtis to and fro from Icon centers and during the presence of murtis at the icon centers as well.
  1. At the Icon centre the two aspects need to be addressed –
  • The ritual part – Currently there is no adherence to agamic principles in icon centers as mentioned above & hence that should be corrected.
  • Safety is the next big concern – proper records(multiple copies), photographs should be maintained about the number of murtis and other valuables that are brought to the Icon centers. This should be periodically checked by independent authorities in the presence of the respective local representative of the devotees.
  • Further, the name of the murtis along with its location name should displayed in the icon centers for Public view.
  1. The villagers should be allowed to worship the murtis and perform the necessary poojas and rituals regularly which have been denied citing security reasons, grossly violating the fundamental right of right to practice religion under article 25 of the constitution. (Presently one of the reasons for theft in most cases is that the local devotees have not seen the murtis of their temples for years)
  2. The mammoth funds which HR&CE controls should be used to give protection to the temples by installation of CCTV cameras, remote sensors and manual surveillance so that the murthis can be brought back for worship to their temples within a definite time.
  3. The officials who have been found to be involved in criminal activities like conspiring to steal and smuggle murtis should be removed immediately and tried as per the law.

Bharat is a Punya Bhumi which has its protecting deities for all the divisions of its land. Ignoring them by not performing worship will result in diminishing of their power and ultimately negligence of the devatas will be faced by the people of this country during the times of calamity. Recent natural disasters affecting the country are apparent evidence to the neglect our temples have been subject to.

Hindu temples represent the culmination of social and religious aspirations of society and is the focal point in the life of a community often representing its pride, identity and unity. It is also the index of a community’s well-being. Hence HR&CE should put an end to the mind set of treating Hindu temples as milch cow and start providing sincere & corruption-less administration, the purpose for which they took over Hindu temples without interfering in its religious aspects.

Note: This article has been been written by Madrasmami who tweets at @madrasmami23

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