Hyderabad: The recent decision of TTD to liquidate properties has brought into focus the need for a strong independent Andhra Pradesh Dharmika Parishad which unfortunately was dissolved in 2014.

While the TTD has explained that the decision was in continuation of a process initiated in 2015, the timing is not correct as it would lead to several temple administrations liquidating valuable properties belonging to the deities at low prices when the economy is in a recession.

Further, the very act of disposal of properties donated by devotees is not correct even if it was done in the past, and there is a need for the Dharmika Parishad to review this decision.

As per the Dharma, during financial crisis, it is the duty of the trustees to protect the temples and its properties by even spending their personal earnings and energy.

The temple trustees can take a decision to liquidate the property of the temple only when they have exhausted all other options including liquidating their own personal properties. The same would apply to a situation where the government is a trustee.

In 2008, at the TTD Dharma Prachara Sadassu, attended by over 40 Peetadhipathis it was resolved that a Dharmika Parishad should be constituted for each state as recommended by Justice Rama Jois Committee to oversee the administration of temples.

The Andhra Pradesh Select Committee which had perused the report of Justice Jois had also strongly recommended for constitution of Andhra Pradesh Dharmika Parishad with Peetadhipathis, eminent devotees and a suitable amendment was also made through amendment of Act 33, 2007 by the YSR Government in this regard.

While the Dharmika Parishad was constituted in 2009 and functioned for three years and made several historic resolutions the new Parishad constituted was dissolved in 2014, post bifurcation of the Andhra Pradesh.

The fact that there is no Dharmika Parishad is now before the Supreme Court in Swami Dayananda Saraswati Swamiji’s Hindu Temple Freedom petition and as declared by Swamiji in his historic September 6, 2014 speech “We will win hands down in SC… it is just a matter of time before dharma prevails in this case.”

The Coronavirus has brought into focus how in 1918, the Travancore Kingdom ruled by Lord Shri Padmanabha Swamy was protected when all over British India and other parts of the world millions died due to the deadly Spanish Flu. The devotees have pointed out to the Supreme Court in the case pertaining to the administration of Shri Padmanabha Swamy temple that as promised to the deity we have incorporated in our Constitution (Art 26) the essential feature of Travancore Constitution and also Lord Shri Padmanabha Swamy as Ruler under Article 363. The judgement in this case has been reserved and is awaited.

What was the part of the Travancore Constitution? “Devaswoms, Hindu religious endowments and matters connected therewith shall be under our exclusive control and supervision and shall not in any respect, be within the scope or purview of the Council of Ministers or the Legislative Assembly. “

The path to victory over coronavirus is by securing the protection of our Ruler Deity as was done by Travancore Kingdom in 1918.

In this context, when the temple administration is in severe strain due to financial impact of Coronavirus lockdown, we appeal to AP Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to take a decision immediately to constitute a strong independent Dharmika Parishad with Peetadhipathis and eminent devotees and transfer all powers of the government so that the Parishad can evolve policies to deal with the current unprecedented situation. This would be in line with the Constitutional commitment to Ruler Deity and a first step towards implementation.

(by C.S Rangarajan Rao, chief priest at Chilkur Balaji temple)

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