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