Hindu temples have always been centres of economic activities, besides being centres of culture and art. Ist’s time mandirs get their due place in the Hindu mind
In April-May 2020, when lakhs of labourers who had made Metro cities their temporary home started walking back to their rural homesteads on account of COVID-19 lockdown, a chorus of seculars (like many times in the past) started about taking money from mandirs. It was surprising because neither the Central Government nor any State Government had said that they face financial crunch.
The above scenario raises two questions: 1) From where did the migrant labourers get the confidence to walk hundreds of kilometres with the members of their families and luggages? 2). Why always money is asked from mandirs?
First, tirthyatra is an integral part of Hindu Dharma. Think of a rough terrain of Amarnath Yatra to Sabarimala, Vaishno Devi to Ganga Sagar, Kanwar Yatra to Pandharpur Wari, a Hindu walks all the way, carrying some weight, sometime with family and sometime without family. Hindus have been doing it since time immemorial. Hindu does not fear in walking in his own country. It is his own country and that is why he does not destroy Government or private property unlike followers of a particular religion, to show anger or frustration on the lack of support from the Government. Hindu just walks and he knows fellow Hindus will help him. And it happened this time also. All the way on the road side, several Hindus got together, in many places under the aegis of a Mandir, to provide food to the migrant labour who was walking home. So the source of confidence of the migrant worker was his dharma.
Second, it is always claimed that Bharat has at least one oldest church and a mosque in the world. There are lakhs of churches and mosques in Bharat. New ones are being constructed at a frantic pace all over Bharat. I wonder why no one asks money from those religious places. Why money is always asked from Dharmic places i.e. Mandirs.
Last, I calculated more than Rs 100 crore have been donated by the mandirs for relief of people affected by COVID-19. But I couldn’t find a single instance of money being donated by any other religious place. (There is a big difference between Dharma and Religion, but more on that some other time. What I have noted here is just one of the differences).
Mandirs have always been the centres of economic activities, apart from being centres of culture and art. Economics revolves around the mandirs since their establishment. Apart from religious bigotry it was the wealth in the mandirs which always attracted invaders towards it.
The economic impact of the mandir can be best understood by this example: The oldest living cities of the world are Varanasi, Ujjain, Puskar and Rameshwaram. None of them have any industry. They all are Dharmic places. While when one searches for “Rust Belt”, the internet throws up the name of Detroit. Once, a city of modern industry, the hub of car manufacturing in the world is today part of rust belt of USA. Once it was cheaper to produce car in Asia, the production shifted to Asian countries and Detroit converted into a ghost town and became part of rust belt of USA.
Every time there is a man-made calamity like war or nature made calamity like flood or cyclone, mandirs have always stood up and supported the Hindus and non-Hindus alike. It’s time mandirs gets their due place in the Hindu mind to begin with.
(The writer is an author of many books. He is writing a book on Temple Economics)