Tem­ple Trou­ble

The death of the Pushkar priest ex­poses large-scale loot in the state’s tem­ples

India Today - - STATES - By Ro­hit Par­i­har

The death of a priest in Ra­jasthan’s Ajmer district may have ex­posed largescale misappropriation of devo­tee do­na­tions in pri­vate tem­ples across Ra­jasthan. When ma­hant Som­puri, head priest of Pushkar’s highly revered Brahma tem­ple, was killed in a road ac­ci­dent on Jan­uary 21, the Dev­asthan Vib­hag (gov­ern­ment depart­ment for reg­u­la­tion of tem­ples, char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tions and re­li­gious trusts) stepped in tem­po­rar­ily to man­age the shrine, pend­ing the appointment of a suc­ces­sor. But what the Dev­asthan-ap­pointed panel found was an eye-opener. Com­pared to the Rs 10 lakh re­ported as do­na­tions over three months pre­ced­ing Som­puri’s demise, the col­lec­tions topped Rs 11 lakh in just three weeks af­ter it took con­trol. The ad hoc manag­ing com­mit­tee headed by the Ajmer col­lec­tor also re­cov­ered Rs 26 lakh in cash from two rooms in the tem­ple.

The rev­e­la­tions, while shock­ing wor­ship­pers, have now prompted de­mands for greater state con­trol and re­forms in the suc­ces­sion of own­er­ship of Ra­jasthan’s pri­vate tem­ples. Chief min­is­ter Va­sund­hara Raje, fear­ing po­lit­i­cal reper­cus­sions, has hith­erto avoided tin­ker­ing with the own­er­ship of Hindu tem­ples. Will she change her mind in light of the Pushkar shocker?

PURUSHOTTAM DI­WAKAR

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