The new DMK-led government has said that temples in Tamil Nadu will continue to be managed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department, rejecting demands from certain quarters that they be “freed” from state control.
Among those making the demand is Jaggi Vasudev, the self-styled “sadhguru” and founder of Isha Foundation. In an interview to CNN-News18 in January, the godman had said: “We live in times where we understand that the government should not manage airlines, airports, industry, mining, trade — but how is it that sacred temples can be managed by the government? What qualifies them?”
In a recent interview to The Hindu newspaper, state Finance Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan, a devotee of Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai, dismissed the demand as “nonsense” and called Vasudev a “charlatan who is trying to find another angle to make money”.
“Random people make random noise. These are the people who want to break the goodwill of society,” he told The Hindu. “In the case of Jaggi, he is a publicity hound and charlatan who is trying to find another angle to make more money.”
The minister rejected the suggestion that the temples should be run by devotees, saying they were built by emperors and kings. “Who do they belong to? You say give it to the bhaktas. Forget whether it is right or wrong. Which bhakta will I give it to?”
“Who will create a committee? Who will decide the eligibility criteria for electing a member to the committee that is going to manage [the temples] outside the government? Only from the village where the temple stands or from outside?”
“Will a godman, who is focused on god, be selling Sivarathiri tickets for ₹5,00,000, ₹50,000 and ₹5,000? Is that a sign of a man of god? Is that the identifying mark of a spiritual man? He is a commercial operator pretending to use god and religion to get help,” said Thiagarajan, whose grandfather, PT Rajan, was the chief minister of the Madras Presidency and leader of the Justice Party, which was instrumental in creating the HR&CE Department.
Thiagarajan said HR&CE Minister PK Sekar Babu had announced an investigation into the Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore. “He will investigate whether there are violations or issues. There are some serious issues he is seeing in the CAG report. He will look into them,” he said.