Sarayu Foundation protects, preserves and promotes its indigenous traditions, cultures and values.

Home > Blogs > Free Hindu Temple Movement: FAQs – All You Need To Know About This Movement

Free Hindu Temple Movement: FAQs – All You Need To Know About This Movement

by Kartikey Aug 29th 2020

1. What is the “Free Hindu Temples Movement” ?

Free “Hindu Temple Movement” as the name indicates is a public movement primarily focussed to free the administration and control of Hindu Temples from the clutches of State Governments. It represents a collective voice of Hindus against the depleting status of Hindu Temples and their collapsing age old tradition of knowledge and culture due to systematic exploitation of temple wealth (both in cash and kind) by dictatorial powerhold of State governments on Hindu temples.

2. How does the policy of Government control over Hindu temples come into picture?

After witnessing 800 years of ruthless plunder and loot of Hindu Temples in the hands of Islamic invaders, Hindus thought that situation would come to halt with the demise of Islamic rule in India. But this misconception met a fatal blow when Britishers started unleashing their colonization plan by selectively targeting Hindu Temples for revenue and monetary benefits. For the British agenda of colonisation and conversions to succeed, the administration and organization of Hindu temples had to be weakened. So, temples were brought under government control mainly in south India because not too many temples in the North possessed such massive property or wealth.

The initial phase began with the Madras Regulation VII of 1817 to succeed in controlling Hindu Temples. Although British colonization project on Hindu temples faced some resistance from Christian orthodox lobbies but later on those differences were mitigated with the introduction of 1925 Act (Madras Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1925).

The re-imposition phase that began with the introduction of 1925 Act marks the beginning of selective targeting of Hindus. And this could be understood by the fact that Madras Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1925 includes Muslims and Chritians also. But it drew large protests from Muslims and Christians. Thus, it was redrafted to exclude them, made applicable to Hindus only and renamed as the Madras Hindu Religious and Endowments Act 1927. Ironically, in 1925, the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was passed that brought gurdwaras under the control of an elected body of Sikhs. So the British had one set of laws for Hindus and another for the Sikhs, Muslims and Christians.

Even today, Hindu educational institutions, temples, religious traditions are subject to government control and judicial review, look for instance at the Supreme Court order on the Sabarimala temple. This takeover of Hindu Temples witnessed radical shift in pace with the introduction in the legislation by way of Act XII of 1935, through which temples could be notified by the government and their administration taken over. This way the Hindu Religious Endowment Board assumed powers to take over and administer temples.

3. What is the status of Hindu Temples in the post independence era ?

The status of Hindu Temples in post independence era could be understood in the words of Indic scholar, Subhash Kak, which read as follows:

“The state governments have based their policy on the recommendation of the Hindu Religious Endowments Commission headed by CP Ramaswamy Aiyer in 1960 that Hindu temples and maths be considered as belonging to the public. The government entered into the religious sphere when the Indian government was very aggressively pushing state control over all aspects of Indian life.”

Post-Independence, the Tamil Nadu government took control of temples and their funds by an Act passed in 1951 called the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951. The Act’s provisions were challenged in the Madras High Court and subsequently in the Supreme Court in the Shirur Math case. Many provisions of the 1951 act were struck down by both courts. With some changes, The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act was passed in 1959. The Congress was in power in the country then.

It was said that the purpose of the act was to see to it that religious trusts and institutions are properly administered and ensure that the income is not misused. The new act abolished the Hindu Religious Endowments Board and vested its authority in the Hindu religious and charitable endowments department of the government headed by a commissioner. If the government believes that any Hindu public charitable endowment is being mismanaged, it may direct the commissioner to inquire and bring the endowment under government control. This provision of mismanagement does not apply to Muslim and Christian communities.

4. What is the modus operandi of Government administered Hindu Temples ?

To understand the way in which State governments are busy in extorting money from Hindu Temples. Let’s take an example of Sri Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani, Tamil Nadu. The modus operandi works as follows:

All hundi collections are deposited in the designated temple bank account. Of this, 14 per cent goes as administration fees, 4 per cent as audit fees (Section 92), 25-40 per cent as salaries and 1-2 per cent for prayers and other festival expenses. Between 4-10 per cent of the total collections go to the ‘Commissioner Common Good Fund’ (Section 97). Further, money is transferred to various popular schemes run by the government like free meals and marriages.


* P/F here stands for Prayers / Festival arrangements

This way, 65-70 per cent of the temple income is used for non-temple or merely administrative purposes. Note that the Archakas who perform the prayers are paid meagre salaries, and sometimes nothing at all. Further temples, originally centres of learning, hardly use funds to run ved pathshalas and share knowledge about the Sanatan Dharma. The bank account is in the name of the deity or the Devasthan. Since these temples are constituted under a State Act, their income is exempt from income tax under section 10 (23BBA) of the Income-Tax Act.

However, for reasons unknown, 782 of the 35,793 temples in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry applied for permanent account numbers (PAN) as a trust. Forming a trust with trustees works for a new temple but not for temples that came into existence hundreds of years ago. Therefore, if a trust spends less than 85 percent of total donations in a given year, income-tax, at rates applicable to individuals, is payable on the difference between amounts spent and amount received.

So, if the temple income is either not spent by the government-appointed officers or surplus money placed in fixed deposits, hundi donations are taxed. This way Hindu temples have become a tool to contribute to the government treasury.

Example of Kerala State

Kerala has four Devaswom boards namely, Guruvayur, Malabar, Travancore and Cochin. Every board has nominees appointed by the government. When the Communists are in power, they appoint members from their own parties and one member from the coalition partner. When the Congress comes to power, they balance it between Nairs, Ezhavas and a third community based on vote bank.” So technically, the government has no say in the management of temples, but in effect, they control the temples through their nominees. The Hundi collections are not spent promoting Sanatana Dharma, or for the benefit of poor Hindus, or on opening hospitals and orphanages. Instead, the money is spent on what is mysteriously called ‘development and construction.”Even after Independence, the British policy continues, which leaves us with a very basic question that are Hindus so incompetent and corrupt that they cannot manage their own temples?

5. What justifications Governments use to give in defense of controlling Hindu Temples ?

The most frequent excuses used by Government to control the management and administration of Hindu Temples as as follows:

  • Alleged mismanagement of funds and property by trustees.
  • Alleged mismanagement by traditional priest families.
  • Streamlining administrative procedure.
  • Preserving Temples property and wealth.

But the ground reality is that in the garb of all these excuses. State Governments are brazenly looting the revenue generated out of Hindu temples. Moreover mismanagement of temple administration by State employees lead to rampant encroachment of Hindu temple lands. In a nutshell this whole scenarios could be depicted in the following way:

6. How is the government miserably failing in managing temple administration ?

The incompetence and failures of State governments in managing the administration of Hindu Temples could be testified on many counts. The most glaring example among them comes from the irregularities of State governments in collecting and utilizing rents and leases arising out of properties of Hindu Temples.

This factual summary gives an eye-opening account of how mis-management and irregularities are going unchecked under the state owned administration of Hindu Temples.

7. What actual damage caused to Hindus due to Government control on Hindu Temples ?

The fact of Temple mismanagement does not end in leakages in collection of rent and revenue, rather it extends to the loss of temple properties also through illegal encroachment and . The stats on illegal encroachments of Temples lands have been increasing with every passing day. Weak management of Temples properties, corrupt officials causing huge damage to the survival of Hindu Temples.

8. How is the loot organised by government officials ?

All the loot and corruption of the wealth and properties of Hindu temples is happening with the connivance of Government officials. The most common modus of organised loot of Temples wealth could be understood by this depiction.

9. Is there any comparative data available on Govt administered temple and Devotee administered temple ?

Now since there is so much debate going around on the shortfalls of Government owned temples. So it is important to draw a fair comparison between govt owned temples and devotees adm temples. And this comparison could be drawn between Sugavaneswarar Temple and Jalkandeshwar temple. The comparison between the two looks like this:

10. Where does the temple revenue go ?

Now after drawing a comparison between Govt adm. temples and devotee adm. temples it is also important to draw a parallel between the expenditures made in both such temples, so that we can come across a clear picture on which one is more beneficial and better for the healthy survival of temples.

The comparison will give you a clear glimpse of how money in govt adm temples have been spent on salaries and other admin works leaving minor amounts for the actual sustenance of the temples. The comparison reads as follows.

11. How many Hindu temples are under government control ?

As per some rough estimates the state governments control over 4 lakh out of an estimated 9 lakh temples across the country. There is however no uniform data available on the list of temples which are under government control. Recently Sarayu Trust has started an RTI initiative under which RTIs have been filed to gather all lists of temples that are under State governments control. This data will be soon published on the Sarayu Trust official website.

In some States like Tamil Nadu, the records are available as to how many religious places are under government control. It is important to note here that the 2005-6 budget report of the Government of Tamil Nadu notes that there are 38, 409 Hindu and Jain religious institutions under its management. The Andhra Pradesh Endowment Department has 33,575 religious and charitable establishments under its management. There are similarly large numbers of temples under government management in several states.

There is another way of estimating the number of temples, by considering the number of localities. It is common knowledge that every locality in India has at least one temple, often several. From ancient times, the classical texts of India have enjoined that one should not stay in a place which is not sanctified by the presence of a deity.

12. How this discrimination has been backed by the Constitution of India ?

Ironically, India is the only country where the majority religious community is being discriminated against. Religious and cultural freedoms for all religions are recognized in Articles 25–30 in Part III of the Constitution which deals with “Fundamental Rights”. The right is, however, subject to regulatory power of the state under clause (2) (b) of Art. 25. This means secular activities connected with religious institutions can be regulated by the State under law. Various state governments through their respective Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Acts have assumed financial and management control of thousands of Hindu temples across India. They did this under alleged accusations of mismanagement of funds, other than carrying forward the legacy of the British Raj when such acts to control funds of Hindu institutions were enacted. It is noteworthy here that no other religious institution (barring Jain institution, as by legal definition Jains are Hindus) — Churches, Mosques, Gurudwaras belonging to Christian, Muslim and Sikh practitioners respectively, despite their scale or similar accusations of mismanagement of funds, have been brought under acts similar to the HR&CE Acts issued by various states all over India. Here is a graphic chart produced by Swarajya Magazine comparing the legal rights of Hindus in managing their temples with the legal rights of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

Apart from this it is also important to take note on the timeline of Hindu Religious Endowment Acts and judicial trends around it, which reads as follows:

  • In the 1920s, the local legislature in Madras State (much of which later became Tamil Nadu) passed the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1923 (Act of 1925). This led to the setting up of a Hindu Religious Endowments Board (Board) with the object of providing for better governance and administration of certain religious endowments. Its validity was challenged.
  • By 1926, the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act 1926 – ACT II of 1927 was passed thus repealing the Act of 1925. This was subsequently amended several times.
  • By 1939 the Madras High court ruled that the Board cannot undertake the notification process (for takeover of temple trusts) on frivolous grounds.
  • By December 1951, after independence, the Madras High Court Division Bench passed two orders questioning amendments and orders passed by the TN government in August 1951. Dikshitars (Brahmin priests and are takers) are recognised as a religious denomination.
  • By 1954, the Supreme Court dismissed TN’s appeals as the state itself decided to withdraw the earlier notifications.
  • In 1959, the state introduced the Act of 1959, Section 45, which empowered the state’s authorities to appoint an Executive Officer to administer the religious institutions, but with safeguards.
  • On 31 July 1987, the commissioner of religious endowments appointed an Executive Officer for the administration of the Chidambaram Temple. The Dikshitars challenged this order by filing a writ petition. The High Court of Madras granted stay of operation of the order, but the writ petition was dismissed on 17 February 1997.
  • After several more attempts at the High Court of Madras, the Digshitars along with Subramaniam Swamy, member of Parliament, file a writ appeal with the Supreme Court — appeal No 181 of 2009, followed by a civil appeal No 10620 of 2013 contesting that Article 26 of the Constitution confers certain fundamental rights upon the citizens and particularly on a religious denomination which can neither be taken away or abridged.
  • On 6 January 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the contention. The apex court curtails the State’s right to administer temples.

13. How the involvement of the State is affecting constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom of Hindus ?

The State Government has been targeting only Hindu temples for takeover to bring about “better management,” while it conveniently leaves out mosques, gurudwaras and churches implying that no mismanagement occurs there. Even the massive revenue of Hindu temples goes to a common pool of funds of the state. So, a donation made by a devout Hindu to propagate his/her faith goes for a totally different purpose. Which gave rise to following pertinent questions :

  1. Does any of the temple revenue go into running Vedic classes?
  2. Are Archakas taken care of the way they need to?
  3. Why do some “babu” get to decide how much an archaka should earn?
  4. Why should people from other faiths be on boards of Hindu temple trusts?
  5. Will a Hindu ever be part of a Waqf Board?

All the issues pertaining to Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution needs a serious review. The fraud of  the Temple Trusts could also be understood by the fact that a “babu” who sits in a temple office for half the time an archaka stays, earns almost double and sometimes even three times the archaka’s salary. The archaka is often in the temple from 6 am to 9 pm. What kind of equality is this and how is this not mismanagement?

14. What will change if Hindu temples will get free from government control ?

Temples earlier were host to a variety of activities – from the performing arts to classical dance, to running Veda Patshalas and hospitals, to having Nandanvans, Goshalas and Kalyanis around the temple. All these were active parts of the temple ecosystem. Sadly, today, all this has vanished and all that remains is just the rituals and a temple solves only that purpose. So if Hindu temples will become autonomous then there is greater possibility to revive all those activities in the Temple premises, which ultimately helps us in regaining our civilizational roots.

15. What role State should maintain in respect of Temples as per our ancient traditions ?

A famous injunction of Brihaspati reads as :

“ Kinasah karuka mallah kusidasreninartakah linginastaskarascaiva svenadharmena nirnayah ”

If the state had no role in legislating what is dharma of various groups and if its role in settling disputes was fairly limited, then what is the nature of rajasasana, the orders of the King? The classical Indian texts do consider this question in detail. Essentially, what emerges from such discussions as also from the examples available from the vast corpus of inscriptions, is that most of these rajasasanas are in the nature of vyavasthas or decisions of arbitration which are made in the context of settlement of particular disputes. It is very important to keep this highly circumscribed role of the state in India in mind, while we look at the relation between the state and the religious institutions.

“ Acarascaiva sadhunam atmanastustirevaca ”

The temples were managed by local bodies following established traditions. From classical Indian position as regards the role of state, outlined above, it should be clear that the main duty of the King with respect to temples and religious institutions, namely palana or protection, in no sense implied any control or involvement with the administration of the institution or its endowments. He was to ensure that the properties and endowments to the temple or the religious institution and its functionaries were protected and that there were no obstacles in the way of the temple functioning as per the established customs and traditions.

Therefore, in the large corpus of dharmasastra literature, there is very little said on how temples and their endowments are to be administered and there is almost no discussion of how worship is to be organised. Such issues are sometimes discussed in the large number of sthala-puranas and other chronicles of various temples, the traditional histories of different sampradayas, and of course the various agamas which deal specifically with worship.

16. What role played by Temples is sustaining the economy and culture of Ancient India ?

Temples at the center of Hindu life – Sanjeev Sanyal in this talk speaks about how temples were at the center of the massive decentralized trade network which made (and kept) India an economic superpower controlling about 33% of the world’s GDP until about 1100AD. He explains that traders in this time were working as merchant guilds, and that much of the financing of the risky voyages they took in the Indian Ocean rim were actually funded by the decentralized temples. It was the temples which acted as banks. Sanjeev goes on to share that when the Turkic invasions happened the entire trade network suddenly collapsed because the Islamic invaders not only targeted the temples for their money, but to possibly also subvert the tremendous economic trade power they exerted. He has explained that it was the same idea of subverting India’s proud scientific, literary, martial and philosophical history that the Nalanda University was burnt for 6 months and monks culled.

17. What are the important Supreme Court and High court rulings on free Hindu temple movement ?

K. Mukundaraya Bhenoy v. The State of Mysore, the court has considered the right of administration of a religious denomination temple. The Court ruled in that case that a law which takes away the right of administration from the hands of a religious denomination altogether and vests it in any other authority would amount to a violation of the right guaranteed under Article 26 of the Constitution of India.

In the subsequent Judgment reported in Angappa Goundan v. Kuppammal, the Court considered the question of Hindu public temples. The Court noticed Mukundarya Shenoy’s case and after noticing, a Division Bench of this Court has ruled that the Hindus in the larger sense, including all sections of Hindus constitute a religious denomination within the meaning of Articles 21 and 26 of the Constitution of India. This Judgment would show that in the matter of temple administration, the state cannot discriminate between Hindu Religious denomination Visa-vis, the Hindu temple. The inapplicability to the Hindu religious institution by Hindu Religious denomination is also hit by Article 14 of the constitution of India. State has failed in its duty to justify its exclusion of the facts of this case.

A Full Bench of the Kerala High Court in T. Krishnan v. G.D.M. Committee has ruled in paras 35 and 36 as under:

A religious sect or denomination has the undoubted right guaranteed by the Constitution to manage its own affairs in matters of religion and this Includes the right to spend the trust property or its income for the religious purposes and objects indicated by the founder of the trust or established by the usage obtained in a particular institution. To divert the trust properties or funds for purposes which a statutory authority or official or even a court considers expedient or proper although the original objects of the founder can still be carried out, is an unwarrantable encroachment on the freedom of religious institutions in regard to the management of their religious affairs. A statute cannot therefore empower any secular authority to divert the trust money for purposes other than those for which the trust was created as that would constitute a violation of the right which a religious denomination has under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution to practice its religion and to Manage its own affairs in matters of religion.

The supreme Court has ruled in Bal Patil and Anr. v. Union of India that the State has no religion and State has to treat all religions and religious people equally and with equal respect without in any manner interfering with their Individual rights of religion, faith and worship.

In Ratilal v. State of Bombay, the supreme Court has ruled as under in para 11:

The language of this two Clause (b) and (d) of Article 26 would at once bring out the difference between the two. In regard to affairs in matters of religion, the right of management given to a religious body, is a guaranteed fundamental right which no legislation can take away, on the other hand, as regards administration of property which a religious denomination is entitled to own and acquire. A law, which takes away the right of administration altogether from the religious denomination and vests it in any other or secular authority, would amount to violation of the right which is guaranteed by Article 26(d) of the Constitution.

Article 26(b) provides for a law with regard to regulating or restricting any political and other secular activities and providing for social welfare etc. But taking over and providing administration in respect of the Government temples, despite their better management certainly would be in violation of not only Article 14 but also under Articles 25 and 26 of the constitution of India. Taking all temples and administering then without any adverse order would be hit by Article 26 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the Government cannot in the guise of better administration takeover even the best administered temple for the purpose of managing the temple without justification. That would be certainly, a rightly argued, in violation of Article 26(b) of the Constitution.

In the Shirur Mutt Case, the SC has rules has under:

The judgment of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the appeal related to the Shirur Mutt and the judgment by another Constitution Bench in the Venkataramana Devaru vs. State of Mysore are landmark judgments that Courts in India are expected to follow regarding Article 26 of the Indian Constitution and Denomination rights.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court agreed with the Hon’ble Madras High Court that many of the sections of the 1951 HR & CE Act were ultra vires the Constitution. It also clearly observed that while the legislature could seek to regulate the administration, it must always leave the administration to the denomination. The Advocate General of Madras agreed with the Court and said he could not defend those sections.

The Supreme Court in The Commissioner, Hindu….. Vs. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar, has ruled that the uniform law is necessary in the administration of the religious institution belonging to Hindus.

It will be seen that besides the right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion, which is given by Clause (b), the next two clauses of Article 26 guarantee to a religious denomination the right to acquire and own property and to administer such property in accordance with law. the administration of its property by a religious denomination has thus been placed, on a different footing from the right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion. The latter is a fundamental right which no Legislature can take away, whereas the former can be regulated by laws which the Legislature can validly impose. It is clear, therefore, that questions merely relating to administrator, institution are not matters of religion to which Clause (b) of the Article applies.

What Article 25(2)(a) contemplates is not regulation by the station of religious practices as such, the freedom of which is guaranteed by the Constitution except when they run counter to public order, health and morality but regulation of activities which are economic, commercial or political in their character though they are associated with religious practices.

In A.V.K.V. Temple v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court ruled as under:

The religious freedom guaranteed by Articles 25 and 26, therefore, is intended to be a guide to a community life and ordain every religion to act according to its cultural and social demands to establish an egalitarian social order. Articles 25 and 26, therefore, strike a balance between rigidity of right to religious belief and faith and their intrinsic restrictions in matters of religion, religious beliefs and religious practices and guaranteed freedom of conscience to commune with his Cosmos/Creator and realise his spiritual self.

It is not every aspect of the religion that requires protection of Articles 25 and 26 nor has the Constitution provided that every religious activity would not be interfered with. Every mundane and human activity is not intended to be protected under the Constitution in the garb of religion. Articles 25 and 26 must be viewed with pragmatism. By the very nature of things it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to define the expression “religion” or “matters of religion” or “religious beliefs or practice”. Right to religion guaranteed by Articles 25 and 26 is not an absolute or unfettered right to propagate religion which is subject to legislation by the State limiting or regulating every non-religious activity. The right to observe and practice rituals and right to manage in matters of religion are protected under these Articles. But right to manage the Temple or endowments is not integral to religion or religious practice or religion as such which is amenable to statutory control. These secular activities are subject to State regulation but the religion and religious practices which are integral part of religion are protected. It is a well settled law that administration, management and governance of the religious institution or endowment are secular activities and the State could regulate them by appropriate legislation.

18. What role Sarayu Trust is playing in making this movement a success ?

Sarayu Trust, being an NGO, is committed towards reclaiming, rebuilding and revitalizing Indian Civilization, it has played a significant role mainstreaming the cause of Free Hindu Temples Movement. We have conducted several talks and seminars on our media channel, Sangam Talks, to communicate to the masses about the broader theme and objectives of this Temple movement. We have invited several renowned personalities in this regard to speak on this topic, few honourable mentions in this regard are; TR Ramesh Ji, Adv. Jai Sai deepak, Hari Prasad ji and several others. Link of all those talks and seminars are as follows:

1. Talk Title : Freeing Hindu Temples from Government Control | Advocate J Sai Deepak | Link :

2. Talk Title : Fallout of Government Control Of Hindu Temples | TR Ramesh | Link :

3. Talk Title : Amendment Of Articles 26-30 Of The Indian Constitution | Hariprasad N | Hindu Charter | Link :

4. Talk Title : Amend Article 26 To Restore Hindu Temples To Hindus | Hariprasad N | Link :

5. Films Docmentary : Freedom For Hindu Temples | Link :

6. Talk Title : Why the Supreme Court barred Tamil Nadu Government from taking over the administration of temples. | Link :

7. Talk Title : Why Doesn’t Northern India Have Big Temples Like The South? | Rajat Mitra | Link :

Apart from this Sarayu Trust has also played a key role in mainstreaming the voice of Charter of Hindu Demands, which also represents the collective voice of Hindus against institutionalised discrimination generated out of certain Constitutional provisions (particularly from Art 25 to Art. 30). In this regard a seminar was also organized by Sarayu Trust in collaboration with other organizations on September 22, 2018, titled, Equal Rights Conference for Hindus, where a resolution has been passed demanding change in certain constitutional provisions. Key highlights of that conference is as follows:
Link :
Link :
Link :
Link :

Sources reference : –

  1. IndiaFacts,
  2. Swaragya,
  3. :