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Friday, June 9, 2023

Srirangam temple cows sent to be slaughtered in the guise of ‘free gift’ to poor?- Temple activist reveals distressing details

The DMK government in Tamil Nadu is continuously meddling in the affairs of temples and their latest scheme of giving away the cows donated to big temples for free has been condemned by temple activists. The cows were said to be distributed for free to pujaris of small temples. However, the details available in the public domain have given way to suspicions that cows are given away to be sold off.

On June 4, Srirangam Shri Ranganathaswamy temple’s Joint Commissioner and Srirangam MLA distributed pairs of cows and calves to 34 temple pujaris in an event. These cows that were distributed for free were said to be surplus cows donated to Ranganatha swamy temple. However, Srirangam based temple activist Rangarajan Narasimhan has accused the HRCE department and the TN government of violating the rules of HRCE Act in this regard.

He has raised doubts about the cattle donation scheme, asking under which rule of the act did HRCE decide to appropriate temple assets and distribute them for free. While HRCE claimed that it was the ‘surplus’ cows that were distributed, it is not open about the capacity of the Goshala in Ranganathaswamy temple. The event and scheme were projected as a party affair similar to the Annadanam scheme as if DMK is helping pujaris out of its own pocket.

Rangarajan Narasimman has alleged that the scheme has been in effect for many years. He revealed that 6,000 cows and calves of Shri Subramanya Swamy temple in Tiruchendur were given away in 2012 and that a similar practice has been followed in Srirangam and other temples as well. He has raised suspicions about the scheme as no details are available on how beneficiaries are chosen or whether the cows are genuinely raised by them.

He has pointed out that HRCE invites tenders every year for the purchase of milk and ghee for making prasad for Shri Ranganathaswamy. He questions why the management is buying milk and ghee from outside if cows are in surplus in the temple Goshala. The purpose of donating cows, apart from earning punya or as parihara, is to help temples self-sustain in offering naivedya and cooking prasad. It is a point of concern as even farmers who raise cattles as part of their livelihood sell them for slaughter once it becomes economically unviable to raise them.

Narasimman has raised concerns that the cows distributed for free could be sent for slaughter in all probability and sent a show cause notice to the Executive Officer of the temple. Ironically the presence of the EO in the temple itself is contested. No due process was followed to appoint the EO and hence his presence in the temple is illegal. Yet the HRCE official is meddling in temple affairs by appropriating temple assets.

Another point of concern is how the beneficiaries are chosen and whether they are genuine. There is a practice of favouring kith and kin for government benefits when politicians are involved. Curiously, Times of India reported that Beneficiaries including non-Brahmin priests were identified”. The Joint Commissioner said that The rural priests were earning only with the offerings made by the devotees visiting the temples. The cows were provided to them to support their living”. 

While it’s admirable that pujaris struggling for livelihood in the midst of the pandemic are helped out, one cannot help but wonder whether DMK followed its so-called social justice principle and neglected Brahmin priests even if they were eligible. These pujaris who received benefits are employed by the HRCE in temples which come under the Oru Kaala Pujai (One puja a day) scheme. These are temples that do not receive much income through hundis and cannot afford to perform puja 3-5 times as prescribed by the Agamas.

If HRCE’s affidavit is to be believed, 11,999 temples under the department cannot afford even one puja a day. 37,000 temples cannot afford to employ more than one person which means the pujari doubles up as the help, cook, etc as well. Even though these temples may not earn much in the form of money, most of them are hundreds of years old and have properties bestowed on them by kings solely for the purpose of earning for their daily affairs. Instead of recovering those properties and compensating the needs of small temples, HRCE and the atheist DMK government are out to destroy the wealth of the big temples as well.

(Featured Image Source: Twitter)

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