Melting of temple gold jewelry in Tamil Nadu is not a new phenomenon !!.

Tamil Nadu, temple jewelry.

Above image: Quite dismayed and pained  scores of people are against the TN govt's move  to melt 2,137 kg temple gold. Over 34,654 people signed an online petition (and the number in on the increase ) started by a Chennai resident  one S Karthik Gopinath on who is keen to put an end to this arbitrary decision by the govt. agency  to deal with temple gold.................. 

Tamil nadu is home to tens of thousands of Hindu temples of great antiquity.- a revered and cherished legacy,  the culture of TN is centered around the temples. The recent decision by the  govt. agency HR & CE 's plan to melt temple gold and convert it into gold bars earned the ire of  preponderance of the Hindu population in the state. This is an uncalled for intrusion into the religious matters of the temples where the devotees donate gold or silver to the temples as part of their worship or prayer.  

In October 2021 The Madras High Court, in response to a PIL petition asked the HR&CE to appoint trustees before taking decision on the proposed melting of temple jewelry and converting it into gold bars to be deposited with the public sector banks. 

Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy temple. 

The tradition of donating gold /silver jewelry or gold /silver coins to Hindu temples has been in vogue across India for centuries. In ancient India temples were the repository of treasures - a safe haven for the rulers to store their wealth. Further, adorning the temple deities  with old or gem-studded jewelry on festival days is also part of temple ritual being followed at countless temple in India, particularly Tamil Nadu.  If you turn the pages of ancient Indian history there were many incidents of raids centuries ago on the rich  Hindu temples in western india by the Muslim invaders from NW. The purpose of such raids was to loot and improve their economy back home or to meet the cost of future war expeditions.  The well-known raid being that of  Somnath temple on the coast of Kathiawad, Gujarat  in the year 1025 AD by Mahmud Ghazni-first ever Turkish invasion in the country. the temple was destroyed in the year 1026 AD. h took away 2 million dinars.

In the recent past the department in charge of Hindu temples - HR&CE of Tamil Nadu expressed its keen desire to melt the temple gold and sore in banks safely in the form of bars. It raised the eyebrow of lots of Hindu devotees across Tamil Nadu.  Advocate-General R Shanmugasundaram, appearing for the govt in response to a PII (September 9 and 22 notifications 2021), told  a vacation bench of Justices R Mahadevan and Abdul Quddhose that  gold  offerings donated to temples for monetisation was not new and has been done since 1977. He further stated that so far five lakh grams of gold jewellery had been melted and deposited with nationalized banks and earning an interest of Rs.11 crore. 

A  statement from the HR&CE has cited that  there are about 38,000 temples in TN in possession of about 2,000 kgs of gold worth about Rs 10,000 crore, and they are to melted soon.  

The Attorney General  added that  the government had proposed to melt about 2,137 kg of gold jewellery at the government mint in Mumbai into gold bars and the same would be deposited in nationalised banks,As for charges of lack of  transparency in the process, the AG  told the justices that  the HR&CE board   had constituted a panel headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, assisted by two retired judges of the High Court, to monitor the entire process. The petitioners contended that  the HR&CE was  only  to administer the temples and has  no authority to lay its hand on the jewelry donated by the public. 

In February 2022 The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department  sought the permission of the Madras High Court to commence temple gold pre-melting process which is essential to  remove useless parts such as  lac, copper and other foreign materials from the ornaments in the temple jewelry because they unfit for decorating the deities. HR & HC further pointed out exact appraisal and quantity  of gold could not be made  without removing the foreign materials from the ornaments. The department cited the Religious Institutions Custody of Jewels, Valuables and Documents and Disposal Rules of 1963 that allow  the trustees as well as Fit Persons to melt temple jewels. This includes gold donation from the public. This would be done with the permission of the competent authority under the HR&CE Act of 1959.

It is to be admitted such an act of converting  temple gold jewelry into gold bars by the government is against the tenets of Hinduism and the divinity of the temple. It negates  the very purpose for which the gold jewels  are donated to the temple by the ardent devotees as part of their worship trusting their donations won't be meddled by the temple administrators using some excuse. Countless devotees are not happy with this unwanted move as  there is enough room to mishandle and misappropriate the quantity of gold as HR & CE already got a bad rap in the handling of innumerable metal idols of great antiquity. The \PIL  petition says that the government move is totally illegal as temple jewels are not government property.HR & CE hurting the sentiments of scores of devotees  as it is an open intrusion by the govt. agency in the religious matters of Hindu temples  and other properties.