Tamil Nadu Hindu temples and their properties - HR & CE goes hand in glove with encroachers - 03

A large section of Hindus would like temples to be free from the claws of netas and government supervision. The British  under the company rule  had implemented the same policy in the 19th century, with Hindu temples suffering wistfully. The EIC  managed the  Hindu temples very well and earned the name “friendly guardian of their religion.” The Christian missionaries in India were not happy with  the promotion of idolatry by the British govt and influenced the  British parliament to stop the EIC from running the Hindu temples. In 1833, the British Parliament imposed the condition on the English Co  to withdraw” from the management of Hindu temples

Mahabalipuram temple .pgurus.com

Rich temples being freed from  the govt control, dishonest Indian trustees driven by greed, mismanaged the temple funds and misused the valuable properties including temple jewelry. Over a period,  the revenue came down drastically. Poor  income affected   temple rituals, functions and use of agricultural lands. To set things right, in the 1900s several acts were introduced to manage the temples. The Madras Religious Endowment act of 1927 was introduced to run the temples and endowments. In 1951 this act was replaced by Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE)   headed by a commissioner.   Since then some reports have been prepared by eminent people as to improve management of   temples effectively. In Hinduism, there is no well-knit ecclesiastical organisation to run and impose controls against temple mismanagement nnd to arbitrate disputes among trustees, archakas (priests)  and others.

 Temple land. pgurus.com

 In the last one to one and half decades,the HR & CE has become a sort of autocratic department.  Some  of its officials backed by  corrupt  politicians, make decisions on matters  related to religion without any referendum or public opinion.  Lately, people at large are demanding to free the temples from the government control. The moot question is: Can public temples built and endowed by former rulers out of taxpayers' money be handed over to trustees from different communities?  Refer to the previous post: https://www.navrangindia.in/2023/11/tamil-nadu-hindu-temples-and-their_12.html

The following are the listed historical temples or sites that all have been desecrated, damaged or encroached; legislation is merely on paper (continued):

TN temple mismanagement. .indiatimes.com

01. The Kottai Mariamman temple in Salem city,TN 

Salem Kottai Mariamman temple, indiatempletour.com/


In November 2020 the Madras High Court  ordered the state government, that it could not  use temple lands for any purpose other than holding the religious functions. Temple premises or lands should not be used for building offices, markets or any structure for non religious purpose.  Temples symbolize our ancient culture  and bear testimony  to the talents of our ancient people in the area of arts, science, architecture, etc. 

With respect to encroachments of lands of the Sakthi Muthamman temple near Neelankarai and the Kottai Mariamman temple in Salem city, the court ordered the HR & CE -  the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to  free temple lands from   encroachers by appointing  an officer  to file periodical reports. Located in a congested bazaar area in Salem city, Kottai Mariamman kovil land was highly encroached and HR & CE  undertook restoration of the temple in the recent past without proper planning.


02. Avanathana patti Mariamman temple, TN 

Annathanapatti Mariamman temple, TN  facebook.com

According to a media report published in Sept 2019 temple land worth Rs 50 crore  belonging to Arulmigu Mariamman temple in Avanathanapatty village had been encroached upon by several people. The land is on the Salem-Bengaluru Highway. Steps were taken by the Tahsildar to retrieve the land.  The temple has been managed by the HR & CE since  28 June 1973. First established by one  Naraina Pillai (also spelt Narayana Pillay) in 1827 in a simple wooden structure, in 1943,  the temple was rebuilt with bricks, lime and sand mortar.  The Avathanapatti Mariamman temple is a popular one in this locality and those who buy a new motor-bike, a car, a bus or a truck  bring it to the temple to get the puja done for safety, etc. New buyers of motor vehicles will never take out  the vehicle  without visiting this mariamman temple. The illegal occupation of temple land is not yet solved.



03. Sikkanatha samy temple of Kudumiyanmalai in Pudukkottai Dt., TN:  

Kudumiyanmalai Sikkanatha samy temple, TN en.wikipedia.org

Located 20 km from Pudukkottai and 58 km from Trichy, Kudumiyanmalai Sikkanathasamy temple is a  beautiful  big rock-cut temple  dedicated to Lord Shiva. The carving is done on a massive hillock   This is a10th CE ancient rock-cut  temple with  inscriptions including Jain inscriptions  on the south-western part of the hill.   Impressive  sculptures came up during the Chola period. Presently, it is under the care of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).  Pandyas and Vijayanagar Kings made additions in the later period. The temple has a thousand pillared mandapa. The maha mandapa has ornate  pillars and sculptures  made during the Madurai Nayak period.  Maha Shivratri is the main festival celebrated in the temple (February-March).

Because of its location in a secluded area away from towns and villages, one can notice desecration. The ASI has to take steps to cut down encroachments and desecration  to safeguard its heritage values.,Though legislation was passed in the Assembly, no proper action is taken to  guard this site. Periodic upkeep is a must to prevent further damages to the site.



Besides aforementioned temples, the following two heritage sites in Tamil nadu are desiccated and encroached upon by the people.  ASI has to  act promptly, save the sites and convert them into popular tourist destinations 

A. The Dindigul fort, Dindigul town, Tamil Nadu: 

Dindigul fort, TN  localguidesconnect.com

old image of Dindigul fort, TN  en.wikipedia.org 

Dindigul fort, TN dreamstime.com

Dindigul fort, TN .alamy.com

Above images: Dindigul fort: Top image - one can notice the encroachments near the fort complex at the bottom.  The houses are built  close to the government recognized monument. The ASI failed to take action at the right time. Bottom image:  With Cannon. The brick-lime mortar fort parapet walls are not well maintained. The  outer plastering peeing off,  the exposed old bricks are  vulnerable to the vagaries of climatic conditions........................

Located in a  rocky terrain, the 17th century fort was originally built  by the Madurai Nayakar king Muthu Krishnappa Nayak (son of Viswanatha nayak) in 1605, the historical fort was controlled by the nayaks of Madurai, Hyder ALi and Tipu Sultan and later by the British. The cannons installed here are non corrosive. But many parts of the fort need repair and restoration work. But in 2005, Keeranur-based ASI in Pudukkottai district fenced the entire surroundings and refurbished some of the dilapidated structures. But it was of no use and the public kept occupying the govt. lands illegally. Bogged down by lack of funds, staff and conservation experts,the fort has remained a neglected area and this has encouraged the dwellers nearby to abuse  the site. On ecan see numerous encroachments near the declared heritage monuments  around the hillock. The fort that is intertwined with various historical events is losing its value because of illegal activities and the govt. ought to put an end to the illegal activities going on in the  site. 


B..Samanar Malai (Jain Hills) near Madurai city, TN: 

10th CE Samanar Malai Jain monuments, Madurai dist.TN en.m.wikipedia.org

Jain carvings,Samanar Hills near Madurai commons.wikimedia.org

Located near Madurai city, TN, the 2000-year-old Samanar Malai, also known  as the Jain Hills, is a listed heritage monuments, a hidden treasure. Because of lack of publicity the caves are unknown to lots of people living in Madurai district and other places.The carvings in the caves establish the links the Jains had with this part of Pandya nadu.  The Samanar Malai  monument under the care of  the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI),  is devoid of  basic information board  detailing the history and legacy of Jain followers. Nor is there any signboard   to direct  the visiting tourists to this site.  Obviously tourists visiting Madurai city don't include this site in their itinerary. Both Tamil nadu Tourism department and the ASI  are least interested in promoting the heritage site which has excellent scope to develop it as an interesting tourist destination by providing extra facilities and bus services. This site needs to be periodically maintained  by the government because of its location in a secluded area. 

The route to the caves on the hill is full of broken bottles, trash, etc indicating  visits by the tipplers. Locals say they've problems with the vandals visiting the site  Except on weekends, most of the week the place is deserted. The Many people feel this monument which is older than many temples in Madurai has to be  protected by the ASI. They can charge nominally to maintain it. Of late some schools bring the students here on excursion to educate them about the history of this site. Will the TN chip in and make it an interesting tourist spot with latest amenities?