What is a Temple Minus the Moolah?
Ay, in the very temple of transcendence,
Gold and silver have their sovereign shrine.
(With apology to John Keats).
Between what is universally known and empirically proven even now lies a gasp of disbelief.
Thus, it was one thing to have an idea that temples in India, in a declension of degree, have always been repositories of clinking treasure, and another to be actually shown gold and silver goodies worth , we are told, one lac crore rupees as in the case of the Padmnabhaswamy temple in erstwhile Travancore. I wish someone quickly told me how much that stacks up in dollar terms so as we could equally quick! To shame Obama into recognizing how our godly left-overs far outstrip his oily assets.
And, if not matchingly, then, in Nehru’s phrase, “substantially,” a none-too-lowly answer from the inward regions of the Puttaparthi domains of the late Satya Sai Baba of the mesmerizing hairdo. Add all the others, and our godly entrepreneurs have enough to go buy the world several times over. Murdoch to note.
At which point well-meaning people like my friend, Ram Punyani, make the predictably rational leap to suggesting how all this moolah—god alone knows how many times larger than the measly 2G speculations—might be deployed to vanquish overnight those problems of penury, illiteracy, ill-health, malnutrition, anaemia, what-have-you, that continue to bedevil this land of rishis and munis. And, remarkably, neither Shri Ram Dev, himself no pauperly chicken, nor the redoubtable corruption-fighter, Shri Anna Hazare, are heard to say “yes, let us” to Punyani’s overture. Nor any of the others who routinely berate the politician and the bureaucrat for being such blood-sucking vampires. Suggestion: only the corporates and the babas may save India for its newly opulent destiny.
Of course, things are never so simple; and Punyani, good man several times over, makes the egregious miscalculation to think that what is sauce for the goose may be sauce for the gander. Indeed, though, to be fair to him, were Shri Manmohan Singh, alongwith Shri Advani ji, to go visit Bhagwan Shri Ram, and ask for instructions in the matter of the clinkery findings, I, as a good Rambakht, have narry a doubt that Shri Ram would say exactly as Punyani does, namely, go use the loot to serve rhe destitute.
But, there is the rub. To be a Rambakht is one thing and to be a high-caste Hindu quite another. Brahminical Hinduism teaches, first and foremost, that what is or is not given to us in this our current life has nothing to do with the moral or political predilections of the day. It has to do with those our accumulated good and bad points when last we were alive. Thus, be it our gender or caste-placement or our economic location, our unequalnesses are predetermined and mandatory. All we may do is to ensure a better next life by being properly subordinate to baba-teaching in this. Add to this the further thought that our acquisitions in this life are only proof and reward for good things done in the previous one.
That being the case, where is the question that, except in the case of the politician and the bureaucrat, anyone else should be asked to answer for their possessions, least of all those who give gold and silver to temple deities and their anointed staff, and those who preside over the fallen lives of the hungry and the immiserated? It must be understood, that, in the absence of any other indicator, as in Calvinism, it is our wealth that suggests whether or not we are favoured of the gods to have a better life next time around.
Thus, to put the matter succinctly, in high-caste Hinduism, both spiritual and economic salvation are matters of deeply individual concern and consequence, and the latter impinging crucially on the former. It is only in very lowly forms of the Hindu faith—such as among the Bakhti saints, tainted no doubt by their indiscriminate contact with the then Sufi ones—that salvation etc., bear any relation to how we give or not give ourselves to other human being, indeed to all living beings, insects included.
And within those lowly forms of the faith, gold and silver have as little consequence as the brayings of the high and mighty. Reason why that gold and silver must, after all, remain solidly in the keep of the temple hierarchy, presided over by a compliant deity.
Which leads to this further thought: all those now under the scanner, or likely to be, need but do one smple thing, namely, instantly construct deterring temple structures over their piles of moolah, and claim that the offerings belong to the deity. Enough to send jitters of devotion down the investigative spine. A Hasan Ali could pass on his pile on contract to his friend Tarpurwalah (or some such) who indeed has the wherewithal to build a bhavya (remember Advani of the Ram Temple fame?) mandir over the takings, security more secure than any of them off-shore no-tax havens.
There is nothing in India’s secularism that dare lay a legal hand on such hard-earned acquisitions. And not to forget that our deities far outnumber the puissant sleuths that the state can muster. Pure no-brainer that.
Pity that poor Raja and Kalmadi did not think of all this; fools must pay for their idiocy.