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Of The People But NOT For The People

Of The People But NOT For The People

July 04, 2011
Anirban Banerjee

Do the gods really need our gold?

It’s a story that makes even the most cynical ten-year-old pick up his stick sword and go treasure hunting again. Buried treasure! Gold! Diamonds! Historical figurines! Unearthed from the deepest recesses of a temple more than a thousand years old!

For those not paying attention, on July 2nd, following orders by the Supreme Court, officials from the fire services and Indian archeological dept. entered the inner chambers of the famed Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala. Their aim was to take stock of the various items of considerable value accumulated over centuries in the temple vaults. On the first day itself they found treasure worth more than Rs. 50 thousand crore of gold, jewels and other artifacts of historical value. Five days later, initial estimates suggest that the total value of the items uncovered is close to, and perhaps more than Rs. 1 lakh crore. And that’s WITHOUT taking their historical value into account. Do that, and the amount could be ten times more. This revelation makes the Padmanabhaswamy Temple the richest temple in the world, with the second richest being the Lord Balaji Temple in Tirupati, whose treasures are valued at a little over than 50 thousand crore. It’s a good thing that money isn’t spent on anything wasteful like feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, at least not beyond “reasonable” limits.

Meanwhile, this newfound wealth is being protected, at government expense, with public money being used to deploy metal detectors, alarms and sensors, and for round-the-clock security. So whose wealth is it again? Why, the temple’s of course! It’s the law, after all. According to the Treasure Trove Act of 1868 (good thing they keep up with the times!), the wealth cannot be used for public purposes. It’s not public money you see, it belongs to the temple, donated over centuries by local kings, who in turn got it, one assumes, by taxing the pub.....but, let’s not get into technicalities here. It belongs to the temple, who, one is sure, would use it in the most responsible and socially conscious manner, like any other institution with lakhs of crores in the coffers and no regulation on how to spend it.

And why are we thinking in base monetary terms? Some of the artifacts recovered include items of priceless historical value, artwork thousands of years old. Surely one cannot suggest they be sold to individuals buyers for base cash? They SHOULD remain at the temple, where Indians can go and look at them and just a little bit closer to the history of our great nation.....as long as they are practicing Hindus. Oh wait! Silly me, I nearly forgot. Even THEY can’t go look, because in the temple, the treasures would be locked away in vaults for a thousand years more. But to suggest they be housed in museums where they can actually be appreciated by people from ALL walks of life and ALL religions...why that is completely preposterous!! For one thing, it would mean the temple would have absolutely NO direct control over those old, historically significant, but most importantly, really really valuable artifacts anymore. For another....well...did you see the first thing?!

Frankly I am surprised there is a debate over this. In a nation that routinely steps over the starving and the sick on its way to pouring milk on idols, in a nation where every tenet of every religion is venerated, except for the common ones of piety and humility and peace, in a nation where people see god as a petty government official to be bribed with gold and money and jewels, I am surprised that there are SOME sane voices claiming the huge hoard of wealth be used to fill the bellies of our 650 million poor with something other than spirituality. Those voices will probably not win, at least not in the next few generations, because even those they fight for have been taught to believe that suffering and sacrifice in the real life they lead today will lead to freedom and peace in the imaginary next one. Taught by people who themselves have enjoyed the best luxuries society has to offer, of course, but that has been explained away as their right, because they are closest to god. So I have little hope for humanism and reason to emerge victorious now, but someday, I hope to see people realise that their god has no need of their wealth, but its the people who want to control them in the name of god who do. 

22 Comments

  • Ananth
    By
    Ananth
    26.07.11 01:32 PM
    The treasure should be with the temple and used as in Tirupati.. to spread the message of the Lord and feed the poor and make them devotees. Just feeding and paying the poor will only make them lazy and increase their numbers.
    The wealth should be used productively to convert everyone to devotees and follow the teachings of the Gita.
  • silpa
    By
    silpa
    13.07.11 01:03 PM
    and i bet you wouldn't have spoken a word if you could get to dig some of that gold.... so much for the love for the unfortunate(read poor).
  • silpa
    By
    silpa
    13.07.11 12:56 PM
    the naivete in your article irks me! You seem to accept this wealth as a wild card solution to the poverty in our country. how about giving some hard earned money of yours to the poor? I guess it is human to give away with love something that one does not own.

    I wish the government was wise enough to not publicize this discovery: imagine the kind of jealousy that is being attracted from other countries and terrorists.
  • Vikram
    By
    Vikram
    08.07.11 04:42 PM
    @Anirban Banerjee

    Every major temple in India used to have more wealth than this discovery. it was looted and distributed among a selected few from other religions for the empowerment/advancement of those religions

    I ask you, What right does anyone claim over this treasure except the ones who protected it ?

    Perhaps if they had allowed the looting, you would not be here writing this article nor would India have this discovery.
  • arun
    By
    arun
    08.07.11 09:50 AM
    what the hell..
    the money is presented by kings ......not the money of the people the money the king collected by trades ...by his own business ......so its not belong to people

    and that money are our cultural left overs ....we must preserve it..

    if the 50% india is poor they must think twice before they vote to stupid parties and elect idiots as leaders ..only .great people can do great things ....not some uneducated people elected idiots...

    what you mean by poor....???
    poor is the state of not having enough money to satisfy a families need ....
    wake up idiots.....in .most of the poor families ..the leader [husband] addicted to drinks....and he do not work all day ....female is just idiot and greedy......that's why they remains as poor....help them self's.....they think they incapable so they are in capable.

    if some one really love his child's and wife really care them ......he will be capable protect them ..and live a better live than that of a poor ..

    poor people thinks that others do things for them .....

    why need to show partiality to a certain group of people because of the reason they are lazy and morons ..or poor...
    not give a single dime to any one.....

    just do not spend nothing....

    make it as a public exhibition and make more tourism opportunities make money through that ...

    government can use profit for the development of people .......are they capable to do it ???......i do not think so ......

    keep ur mouths shut u idiots .......
  • Arun Kumar
    By
    Arun Kumar
    06.07.11 07:35 PM
    Every one knows what will happen if announced the treasure is to be utilised for public welfare.BEWARE.there is a long waiting list which will surpass the treasure amount.it will be god`s day out.
  • Cindrella
    By
    Cindrella
    06.07.11 10:40 AM
    This is a well written article and you have expressed your point of view very clearly! And moreover you have been able to generate a very good debate on the topic here..

    I am not any expert to say how this wealth could be used wisely! But mostly I admire the way the Temple has for generations protected this wealth! India being a country who has through generations gone through so many foreign rules, so many wealth loot, it's a very high degree of appreciation I have for this wealth for still being there! So much of of historical and cultural wealth have gone to other countries!

    I believe this wealth was protected by someone very wise maybe a wise King, maybe a wise society that existed long time ago, and high degree of engineering skill that went into constructing such a beautiful temple with secret chambers that could hide this wealth. So more than arguing on what is done with this wealth i would rather say we should first admire how this has been protected all these years!!
  • ravi
    By
    ravi
    05.07.11 04:25 PM
    what a hypocrite (and coward) you are, a self proclaimed atheist, what i have seen in indian atheists is that when they talk about religion being wrong they only speak of hinduism as if it is the only religion in the world. you should really learn something from western atheists who criticize all religions, may be becuase they have guts.
  • ravi
    By
    ravi
    05.07.11 04:09 PM
    Forget to mention in my last comment. since you mentioned secularism, I would like to point that secularism is a political ideology, its more of a political ideology than a personal one. the basic idea of secularism is that the state would not interface in religious matter of its citizens, and it would not favor a particular religion and would be religiously neutral. So when you are saying that the temple treasure should be used for other purposes or took over by government that is actually a violation of secular constitution. Thank you.
  • ravi
    By
    ravi
    05.07.11 01:22 PM
    @ Anirban Banerjee - why dont you give up your own wealth for upliftment of people, instead of telling the temple to do the same. and for that matter also include a reference in this article about the land ownership of mosque and churches. and dont give a justification of a secular constitution, secularism is for all for just for hindus.
  • Treasure
    By
    Treasure
    05.07.11 01:04 PM
    Actually, this whole thing is just a neat little sideshow. The real story is what to do about $1.5trn that has been looted from the people by the government. NOW that is something people should be talking about!

    I would rather the temple have it than the cheats and liars at the government. They have been ripping off the country for decades. The temple could do no worse with it than them.
  • vanitha
    By
    vanitha
    05.07.11 10:29 AM
    Mr. Banerjee should cry against the British and Turks who have looted our treasure and inventions. Then take care of Black money stored by our politicians . One who doesn't believe on our faith don't have right to talk about our money. Ask the west & Arabs to charge the nominal profit on their petroleum products. Fight against advanced countries, who has looted all the nature of our planet and bringing disaster to the world.
  • tys
    By
    tys
    05.07.11 10:21 AM
    okie , my 2 bit...

    we have a saying in prawnstate..roughly translated it goes like : the situation is like a dog on a haystack, wont eat the hay, neither will it let the cows eat the hay...

    was talking to some people abt this and as is usual nowadays, the arquements were very amusing...its all of course very valid, but the question will remain unanswered..

    how does this discovery benefit the people?

    answers i got :

    - why shud this go to the people?, let the muslims mosques and the christian churches throw open their coffers to the nation also.

    - the treasure can be put as a reserve in our reserve banks , thereby improving the economy ( forgive me,iam stupid...i have no idea how economy works..) but of course we, hindus will be losers becoz only they are making the sacrifice.

    - let devasom keep it...we didnt know it existed before and so why hanker over something that was not part of the plan earlier..

    so on and so forth...

    truth is , it makes a great story...and it will now increase our anxiety on how we are going to protect this treasure...apart from that , this is like another great saying :

    money in anothers pocket and knowledge in books are like having no money and knowledge...
  • Sands
    By
    Sands
    05.07.11 04:30 AM
    It all sounds a little less informed.
  • Sri
    By
    Sri
    05.07.11 12:47 AM
    Anirban , good article but I would like to point out that using this treasure find as a means to fund/solve our poverty and other issues is way too naive.The reason we have so many problems is that we have an incompetent governmental system that cares nothing about the well fare or growth of its citizens .We are victims of so many social evils because we are too busy ignoring them when we should be fighting hard in a productive manner to eradicate them . I mean just 2 generations back our grandfathers fought bravely ( with lesser resources available to us today ) for freedom ... that was no easy task . There was poverty then too ...people just worked hard without complaining ,doing what they had to do to push each day forward in the best way they could. They won because they believed in their cause and was proud to be a citizen of the country . Today that pride is missing . In everything we do. Here a national treasure has been unearthed and instead of taking pride in our history & culture people are taking about splitting it and using it up as a temporary means to cover up a big social issue such as poverty . Do you honestly think this treasure is enough to feed the entire nation of starving , degraded , uncared for citizens ? What happens when its all used up ? Do we just twiddle our thumbs and wait for the next treasure to come up ? Of course not ! While this treasure trove is wealth in itself we must be talking about preserving it for future generations to take pride in ... India is not just about being poverty struck .. its a land of vast treasures ... many of which is cultural . We are fast losing our pride as being an Indian just because we have all these problems. Every country has these problems too ... they just tackle it with more energy than we do . We should not lose the big picture when we see the disturbing sights . We are a new country and we've had no strong leaders to guide us to our potential. The fault lies with our gov system not our religions . All religions have good in them .Hinduism included . Lets not degrade what is uniquely ours in front of the whole world . Its not worth that .I honestly think our freedom fighter grandfathers and forefathers would be appalled at our attitude of throwing bricks at each other in a time when we need to stick together and show unity and pride in everything that is uniquely us. We need that national pride to keep us moving in the right direction in a practical manner . News of such a treasure should be a matter of national pride .Its a time we must show unity and pride in our ancient cultures and traditions . No amount of wealth will buy you culture or history .We must make sure that it will be preserved and protected for generations to come. That is the only attitude with which we can move forward with pride and dignity .
  • Prasad Pondicherry
    By
    Prasad Pondicherry
    05.07.11 12:25 AM
    Correction in the opening paragraph of my previous comment where I meant to say core communist state like West Bengal instead of Calcutta. Apologize for the typo.
  • Sandeep
    By
    Sandeep
    05.07.11 12:08 AM
    Poverty is the basic tenet of "this" religion? - Either you think you know all and in your arrogant attitude, you assume that all you blabber is the gospel truth. You are entitled to your opinion.So are millions of other ppl's opinion. And, you can keep your i don't care comments to yourself. It is clear that you don't understand nor respect "this" religion by the way you talk. If you are so bothered by the fact that treasure was found and want it distributed, why don't u stop preaching and start practising what you preach. Start donating all to poor and lead us by example. My basic question to you is who will you entrust to distribute this wealth. Can you ensure that it will reach all, by the way things are going on in pur country. First do something to fix the mess, before you come up with your treasure distributing fundas.
  • Prasad Pondicherry
    By
    Prasad Pondicherry
    04.07.11 10:43 PM
    I love the way this magazine published an opinion about a temple treasure discovered in an Indian Hindu temple written by a self described atheist with roots from a core communist state like Calcutta to indict hinduism.

    I am a Hindu, granted that over time I kind of went beyond the symbolic rituals, cusoms and learned or may I add still learning about the simple secular and free nature of true hinduism.

    Even for me, a broad brushed stroke of combining the unpalatable aspects of poverty in India to what he presumes as stupid karma based beliefs in Hinduism and how this belief will absolutely make sure that nothing good is going to come out of this discovery that may help poor and/or the needy.

    C'mon Anirban, you should at least pretend to be objective since the atheist friends or family numbers I know of sometimes do come out with objective considerations.

    Of course some home work would help. Anirban do you know how Tirupathi contributes to the good of the society? Have you ever been to Tirupathi and see all the educational, social and cultural institutions that TTD sponsors?. Do you know that Tirumala may have the largest and continuous free daily lunch and dinner program in the world that is served with dignity to the needy who trek from all over to perhaps in your perspective wasteful idol worship.

    Anirban, I would therefore give you my 2 cents. Atheism/Theism is a purely personal choice and I do know the standard cliche that atheists come up with "More people were killed in the name of religion than all the wars combined" and I too think killing in the name of religion is bad, discrimination in the form of castes is bad but let us keep the religion separate from its followers.

    Anirban, Karunanidhi is an atheist but we all know how his entire family is involved in this multi thousand crore 2G scam. Hitler is considered by some folks to be an atheist and a vegan and we know how that went. We all know Communists are atheists by belief (irony) but history shows how Stalin or Lenin killed millions either directly or indirectly thru their decisions that resulted in deaths of innocents that can atributed to their belief system. However I do not believe I can tie these unpalatable historical truths to atheism.

    Anyways it is way too early to judge on what is going to happen with the huge treasure and I think the Devasthanam should have every right to decide how or what they want to do with the money. Compare that to a private mega church in USA, I am sure you never opined about the way they spend money and so ideally I should not expect you to lecture about what Padmanabhaswamy temple is going to do about their money but my Hindu beliefs say that I should respect everyone's opinion without judging.

    Peace brother.

    Prasad
  • Italy
    By
    Italy
    04.07.11 09:01 PM
    The reason I said Indians/ Hindus is because you were bashing both Indians AND the Hindu temple ie Hindus.

    You seem to enjoy belittling "your" country without any balance in the article.

    Then the old classic about Hindus shouldn't have a problem if you continually denigrate them because that's what's supposed to happen to them and they are supposed to like it! Come on, even Hindus, believe it or not, are entitled to self respect and dignity, just like everybody else. Tolerance is one thing but taking the pi** is another.
  • Anirban
    By
    Anirban
    04.07.11 08:50 PM
    Wow, way to miss the point of the article....
    First of all to say "Indians/Hindus" is as insulting as it gets for those of us who believe in the SECULAR constitution of India.
    Second, the article was written with a certain perspective. Thats how an article on CURRENT events works. As far as I know, there has been no recent discovery of valuables worth thousands of crores in any Indian church or mosque.
    Third, I don't know, nor do I care how much wealth the Vatican has. It's not in India. Asw you might have noticed I am speaking about my country here. It's not a WORLD problems article, it's an India problems article.
    And lastly, no true devout Hindu would have a problem with the article, because as I already pointed out, aren't piety, humility and poverty some of the basic tenets of this religion?
    Every article, every piece of literature in the world is about a subject. To bash it for not being about something else is pointless.
  • Italy
    By
    Italy
    04.07.11 07:57 PM
    Well at least India recognizes other religions. You do know that in Italy, Hinduism is not even recognized as a religion? Yet it started probably at least three thousand years before Christ was even born.

    How much money does the Vatican have by the way? What do they do with all of that? Apart from go on mass conversion sprees for the backward natives, of course, couched in the pretext of "helping the poor".

    And don't tell me that the Church doesn't rely heavily on donations - they pass around a collection plate at most churches, amongst other things.

    There are plenty of problems in the world and amongst all religions and peoples - a more balanced article would have pointed that out. But hey, why do that when you can have a good old bash at the Indians/ Hindus? They don't really bother to fight back much so they are an easy target, no?
  • Rommel
    By
    Rommel
    04.07.11 10:15 AM
    Our churches and Mosques also have huge sums of money and assets at their disposal.Will they allow this to be used to fill up the bellies of 650 million so-called starving people?Will they give this money without any strings attached,like asking people who avail of their funds to convert to their religion?

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