Provide Hindus the same opportunities for autonomous management of temples like other faiths

via HAF - Press Release published on June 3, 2010

The Hindu American Foundation Protests About Temple Gopuram Collapse

SAN RAMON, CA, June 1, 2010: The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) reacted with shock at the May 26th collapse of a tower of the famous Sri Kalahasti temple near Tirupati in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The temple, a place of great historical significance, was a revered place of worship for millions of Hindus. Leaders also extended condolences to the families of the victims of the devastating collapse.

Contrary to several media reports citing King Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar empire as having built the temple, Krishnadevaraya built only the now collapsed tower in 1516 CE, bringing the temple to its current form. Evidence reveals the temple to have been constructed much earlier. Historical literary references to the temple are found in the works of Nakkeerar, a Tamil poet in 3rd Century BCE during the Tamil Sangam period, who called it the Southern Kailash.And inscriptions in the temple, as well as the architecture, also indicate that the Chola, Pallava, Pandya and Vijayanagar dynasties had all contributed to the temple over the centuries.

It is tragic that what would be considered a national monument in any other country was simply allowed to collapse in this manner as a result of the callous disregard of Andhra Pradesh State Government officials said Padma Kuppa, a member of HAF Executive Council and a native of the state of Andhra Pradesh. That nothing was done about the cracks in the tower, which were first reported over a decade ago, at worst speaks to incompetence, and indeed corruption, of those responsible for preserving Indian heritage. Most recent media reports indicate that the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, has promised to reconstruct the collapsed tower with the help of the Archeological Survey of India.
HAF leaders held that this latest tragedy highlighted again the unique challenges Hindus face in India as the only faith community whose places of worship are often under financial and management control by ostensibly secular state governments in India. Andhra Pradesh as well as many other state governments administer and manage most major Hindu temples in India today.

It is ridiculous that governments, sometimes run by the Communist Party of India in states such as Kerala and West Bengal, arrogate unto themselves the right to manage temple affairs including the conduct of religious rituals, said Swaminathan Venkataraman, a member of  Board of Directors. The fact that only Hindu institutions are subject to such treatment while churches and mosques are not makes a mockery of Indian secularism.

HAF reported urgent pleas from its members over the last week calling for state governments in India to entrust Hindu temples to reputable and well-organized Hindu religious organizations, including the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, to provide Hindus the same opportunities for autonomous management enjoyed by other faith traditions.

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