Bruce's code and Tirupati Balaji temple - a colonial ingenuity to divert temple funds

Tirupati balaji temple, AP,

The purpose of Bruce's Code  enacted by East India Company in 1821 AD was to  run the administration of  temples like Tirumala and Tirupati  smoothly  based on standard customs without poking their nose into  day-to-day affairs of the temples. It consists of a set of  administrative  rules  with numerous provisions as many as 42  covering people in the employ of the temple including  the servants. 

First experimented at Puri Jagannath temple of Odisha ingenious as it was the introduction of new administrative norms in Bruce's Code had a few subtle objectives  

01. Bringing the Hindu temples under its management, 

02. To assure a fixed income for the English company by scrutinizing the temple income from daily collection, revenue lands, etc   and 

03. to prevent misappropriation or mismanagement or financial irregularities of temple funds., daily undial collection, etc.   

The Hindu temples like Tirumala and Tirupati  in the 18th century fell under the control of muslim rulers  in the aftermath of fall of Vijayanagara dynasty.  With the arrival of British to the southern region,  the management of temples was  transferred from Nawabs of Arcot to East India Company in the early 1800s for political reasons.  During their reign the revenue from the temple was appropriated by the Muslim rulers to run the administration. Temple lands assigned by  Hindu rulers with   hereditary rights  to certain employees  of the temple were repossessed by the Muslim rulers.  

Upon the death of Chanda Shahib in the war of succession to the throne,  Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah   emerged victorious backed by the British. They  installed him as the Nawab of Arcot and  the  vassal of the British. Years later with the shifting of his residence from Arcot to Madras  to reside in his new palatial  residence Amir Mahal the nawab's annual expenditure skyrocketed as a result of lavish spending, payment of  ever increasing subsidiary alliance fees to the British besides interest on the loans to build palace, etc.  Consequently, Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah and his successors were burdened with heavy   debts to the  British from which redemption was a tough one. This forced the Nawab to transfer the income from lands, temples etc. to meet the payment of interest, etc.   

The EIC established the Board of Revenue at Fort St.George in 1789 and brought the  management of temple from the Nawabs of Arcot under their control  to generate fixed revenue per annum to the circar by regularizing  the income  from the temple. By 1801 AD, the British East India Company  without any hesitation dispossessed the Nawabs of Arcot, annexed Arcot into their domain and whereby assumed the direct administration of the Tirupati temples for the sake of income of the temple. In the later years the Arcot nawab family was asked to vacate their residence and move over to the other building. 

It was customary to prepare a report by the District Collectors on  the famous temples in his area  showing the f details of  accounts being maintained by the institutions (expenditure, revenue, etc), along  with schedules of  pujas protocols, extent of revenue lands, properties, expenses, etc. It is known as  "Statton's Report."  In the case of Tirupati temple, this report was prepared by the District Collector of Chittoor  to be sent to Ft. St. George, Madras. The preparation of this report was on the model of  a  smaller report  on Jagannath Temple (Odisha)  prepared by by "Grome" and "Garrett". In 1803, the then Collector of Chittoor had submitted the first report.

When it comes to managing money-generating Hindu temples,the  British rulers relied on the  "Statton's Report" to control  the institution. This practice continued till 1821  when a new  a set of rules for the management of the temple and the servants, were framed called  "Bruce's Code. 

Between 1805-16, as the number of complaint  about financial mismanagement increased, so  the British East India Company passed the Regulation VII of 1817 to check the abuses. Though the duty of the board was limited to supervision and partial management, the Board interfered in almost all aspects of the administration of the Tirumala and Tirupati temple.

It was Bruce, the then Commissioner of the Chittoor district formulated a Code in 1821 containing 42 provisions, known as "Bruce's code" defining  customs and duties meant both for the Tirumala Temple as well as for the Hindu officials working there

he Mackenzie manuscripts of 1801 (Vol.XVI page 476-C) have recorded the boundaries of the seven hills, spread over 250 sq km. The Company managed the Tirumala temple under the well-defined rules contained in the Bruce Code drawn up in 1821 on the basis of previous usages and customs and did not interfere in its day-to-day affairs.

 However the  interference in the temple affairs continued to such an extent at one stage, the  "Court of Directors" in England ordered the relinquishment of their administration of religious endowments. It came into effect in 1842-43 AD, in the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria. The TTD has been around since 1950 and now being  governed by the AP Endowments Act 30 of 1987. With more than 14000 employees, it annual income is more than 1000 crores.


British administrator Thomas Munro in the 1820s  during his official tours heard a lot about God Venkateswara in Tirumala. He instituted the offering of Pongal each day to the deity in a vessel known as the Munro Gangalam (a huge cauldron)  and endowed a village in Chittoor district to maintain and continue the tradition  at Thirumala. Still, the old tradition is being followed, using the revenue from the village. While working as a district collector of Bellary Thomas Munroe drew up the deeds of the property of the mutts and temples to ensure that the property  was safeguarded. His trip in the early 1800 to Mantralayam  where in the samadhi lie the mortal remains of sri Raghavendra Swamiji made him become more saintly and humane.