Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which played a critical role in the Ram Mandir movement in the 1980s and 1990s, including proposing and popularising the model for the Ram Temple, has big expectations from the government on how it should go about constituting a trust for building the temple.
The Supreme Court has directed the centre to set up a trust within three months. The government will handover the 2.77-acre land that the apex court has adjudicated on as well as the 67 acres that are in its possession to the trust, which will then oversee the construction as well as the management of a grand temple at Ayodhya.
VHP hopes that the trust will go with the same Ram Mandir design that it had finalised three decades ago.
The design, made by celebrated temple architect Chandrakant Sompura, was approved by a ‘dharma sansad’ at a Kumbh Mela in the 90s after which artisans started work on sculpting the special pink stones from Rajasthan. Almost half of the work of carving on stone blocks has been completed.
Temple design is certainly an emotional issue for the organisation because when no one could see light at the end of the tunnel, it was VHP’s temple model that gave hope to millions and inspired them to keep faith in a fruitful outcome.
But more important than VHP’s design is its expectations from the government regarding the form of the trust it will constitute. The organisation doesn’t want any government representative, whether minister or a bureaucrat, in the trust.
Nor does it want any non-Hindu as a member. Not only that, even among Hindus, the VHP wants those as members who believe in Shaivism, Vaishnavism and the Sagun Brahma concept. It’s not in favour of appointing those Hindus who belong to the Nirgun parampara.
And within Vaishnavism, those belonging to the Ramanandi sampradaya will be hoping to be given preference.
VHP vice-president, Champat Rai said that the question of giving place to non-Hindus in the trust doesn’t arise as they don’t worship Ram.
“Only those who worship Ram should be members of the trust,” he was quoted as saying. If the government appoints non-Hindus, it will create a new problem for which the government alone will be responsible, he warned.
On VHP’s opposition to having government representatives in the trust, Rai said that it doesn’t want the trust’s work to be hampered by the transfer of ministers or bureaucrats.
As far as the temple priest is concerned, VHP prefers the Badarinath model, where only a brahmachari can be a priest and he is selected by the trust. In Badrinath, traditionally Nambudari Brahmins from Kerala are appointed as head priests.
Going with this model would avoid the pitfalls of installing the dynasty model of priesthood, where the role is passed down from one generation to another in the same family.
We will know soon whether the government accepts these suggestions by the VHP or not. But it’s great to see that a top Hindu organisation is deliberating and speaking out on this key issue, which has hitherto been ignored.
Since independence, the state governments have taken over thousands of temples, especially in South India, on one pretext or another.
These governments have made it a habit of cornering the temple wealth for secular sarkari purposes; not to speak of the theft of idols, the plunder of artifacts and corruption by government officials in charge of administration.
Thousands of acres of temple land has been encroached upon with impunity as the managers and administrators couldn’t care less about the devotees or the Hindu society.
The governments don’t even shy away from appointing non-Hindus as members of boards and trusts entrusted to manage the temples.
Give such a scenario, what VHP is recommending matters. It is making all the right noises. Appointing only those members to the trust who belong to the temple samradaya and are pious believers and keeping the government out of the premises are the most important demands that the organisation has made.
But VHP shouldn’t limit its activism on this front to Ram Mandir alone. This is a national issue of great importance and an organisation like VHP with tremendous on-ground heft can give a fillip to the movement to free Hindu temples from the clutches of the state governments.
It was VHP under Ashok Singhal that took the Ram Janmabhoomi issue out of Ayodhya and created a pan India movement. It can now start a revolution in how temples are managed and administered in the country.
And getting the government to accept its suggestions on Ram Mandir trust composition will be a good starting point.
One hopes that just as Ram Rajya is referred to as a model for an ideal state, the upcoming Ram Mandir trust will become a role-model for ideal temple management and their administration. Hindu organisations like VHP should make sure that this happens.
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