Saving the Temple Lands
   06-Mar-2019
About 76 acres of land belonging to ancient Murugan Temple of Thiruporur in Kanchipuram was encroached and turned into housing complex. The land is worth over Rs 750 crore
The ancient Murugan Temple in Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu has properties which comprise of agricultural lands, vacant plots, plantations and buildings, spread in cities of Tiruppur, Kelambakkam and Nemmeli. It was alleged earlier too that many of these properties had been illegally procured by the municipal authorities using fake documents and were sold to private buyers. The effect of which is the housing complex, which has come up on one of its properties. In 2018, it was revealed that 2.51 acres of the temple land had been illegally sold off to private companies. The value of the land was worth rupees millions.
 
 
The illegal road built on the Temple land 
 
Startling Revelations
However, given the rampant encroachment and illegal sale of temple lands, revenue officers headed by Executive Officer Sakthivel, took up the task of finding the lands and properties that belong to Murugan Temple following the complaint to Kanchipuram District Collector. The task involved scrutinising the land records in several towns and cities and also verifying the land, which were illegally sold to private entities.

 
Ancient Murugan Temple at Thiruporur in Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu 
 
Investigations revealed that lands belonging to the Temple in Kalabhavan Village of Kelambakkam on Old Mahabalipuram Road had been encroached. This land was leased out by the Temple administration in 1936 for agricultural purposes. The documents revealed that an amount was also received by the Temple for the leased land. Existing documents available at the local revenue office corroborate this fact. The ‘Patta’ records of the land has the name of the executive officer who had leased the temple land. Accordingly, the value of the 76 acre which was leased out and cost about Rs 750 crore as per current market prices. But when the temple administrators visited the lands recently, they were shocked to know that the land had been sold off to private entities. The creation of fake documents and change of ownership had happened way back in 1994 as per the records.
About Thiruporur Murugan Temple
Thiruporur Murugan Temple or Kandaswamy Temple in Thiruporur, is located in Thiruporur Panchayat of Kanchipuram District in Tamil Nadu. The Temple was built during 10th century by the Pallavas as per archaeological records. The Temple dedicated to Lord Murugan is renowned for its architecture and sculptures. As per the Puranas, Murugan fought with Rakshasas at three places, namely, the sea at Tiruchendur, land at Thirupparankundram and in air at Thiruporur. It is believed that sage Agastya on his way to Pothigai hills visited this place. The main idol of Murugan or Kandaswamy is said to have emerged from the rocks on its own. The location was submerged which was dug out by Chidambara Adigal, a sage from Madurai, in the 17th century and a grand temple was built at the spot. The temple comes under the Endowment Board of Government of Tamil Nadu and is administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act.
 
 
In the most recent case, the ownership was changed to Kanthaswamy Valliyamman Temple in the fake ‘Patta’ in the revenue records. The local revenue office then transferred the land to the Panchayat which subsequently sold it to a private housing company. Surprisingly, it did not stop there. The Panchayat also allowed the private company to build a road to its housing project in violation of all land laws.
 
Despite previous instances of temple land encroachments, nothing much seems to have happened. In 2013, nearly 36 acres of the Temple land was recovered from land grabbers near Thandalam. The land was worth more than Rs 100 crore. But encroachments and illegal sale of temple lands did not stop. This clearly indicates that such illegal procurement and sale of temple lands are happening with the knowledge and participation of the local revenue officers and bureaucrats.
 
Present Condition of the Encroached Lands
Investigation revealed that construction of buildings and other structures have taken place at more than 10 locations, which have the properties belonging to the Temple. While some of these constructions have completed, many are in progress. One of the lands was bought by a leading Chennai-based company, as per reports. The deal was materialised after preparing a duplicate documents of the said land. The fraudulent deal has exposed how the officials of Revenue Department have changed the name of the original owner in the ‘Patta’ document. This has been done so that it is difficult to return the lands even if the buyer wishes to do so. In several cases where the private buyer is ready to return the land, such forged documents are preventing the return of the property to the temple.
 
Following investigations, a letter has been written to the officials of various departments including the Mahabalipuram local planning committee, District Collectors and the deputy heads of the Temple Administration. Apart from seeking relevant documents from these officials, the letter also stated that no further deals should be made with the Temple lands without the approval of Revenue Department and the Temple Administration. Consequently, the Murugan Temple administration is planning to file FIR in connection with the encroachment of its properties. The District Collector Ponnaiah has promised strict action against the officials and private entities who are complicit in such deeds.
 
In this scenario where temple properties are being encroached easily in collusion with government officials, Executive Officers like Sakthivel have stepped in to rescue the temple lands now. He has personally written letters to the various Heads of the Departments on the issue and solicited co-operation and information. The collusion of government officials and private businesses is also being probed, says Saktivel.