We of South India can be proud of our temples and it behooves us to see that the daily worship in, and special festivals of, these temples are conducted properly and well. Some time back, an idol of Vinayaka was found neglected in a small village about a mile and a half from Tirunallam or Konerirajapuram. The people of Tirunallam decided to construct a temple for this Vinayaka. They began investing the surplus funds of the Tirunallam temple and from the income derived from such investments, a beautiful temple for Vinayaka was constructed. Necessary provision was also made for conducting the daily worship at this temple. Similarly, it is very desirable that the surplus income of one temple is utilized for renovating other temples found neglected and for re-establishing the daily worship and festivals in such temples. But it is important to remember that the surplus of a rich temple should be determined only after amply providing for the daily puja and seasonal festivals of that temple in full measure.
It is a matter for gratification that the Government of this State and those in charge of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments are anxious to administer the affairs of our temples along right lines. The order passed recently by the authorities not to have electric light inside the sanctum sanctorum is to be heartily welcomed. Some people may think that there is no virtue in sticking to practices which obtained in days when electricity had not come to be discovered. But the matter has to be viewed from an entirely different angle. We attach divinity to the idol installed in a temple and look upon it not as an image of stone but as the deity which the image represents. We believe that by sanctification, God, in the manifestation of which the idol is a symbol, is constantly present in the sanctum sanctorum. Does it not therefore stand to reason that it is improper to expose the deity to the glare of tube lights and high-powered bulbs all the 24 hours of the day and the night, when no human being will submit himself to a similar treatment even for a few minutes? By electrically illuminating the sanctum sanctorum, we will be committing apacharam and not doing upacharam to God.
Another welcome change in the administration of temples is the direction issued to the staff of the Department that inside the temples they should do their work sitting on the floor and using a low desk, instead of using chairs and tables hitherto. Directions have also been given to keep clean the cloth used for decorating the deity. When the daily worship in a temple is conducted according to correct schedule, and the premises are also kept tidy, more devotees will be attracted. Public opinion voiced by the devotees will make those in charge effect further improvements. The two are inter-related and it is the duty of worshippers to be watchful in order to prevent slackness on the part of the archakas and others rendering service in temples.
The surplus funds of one or more temples in a particular area can be pooled to renovate dilapidated temples in that area and to make provision for regular daily worship in them. This will provide employment for a number of poor people. The assistance given to such “orphan” temples is as meritorious as starting orphanages or aiding existing orphanages. Oriental schools can be started at convenient centers for groups of ten or more big temples. These schools can impart education to the children of archakas and other temple servants, who are proverbially poor. In these schools, general education up to S.S.L.C. standard should be given. The special feature of these schools should be to give training to boys in the aagamas and other aspects of temple service, and teaching of the Vedas, Prabandhas, Tevarams, etc., conducting classes in singing devotional music, and playing musical instruments in vogue in temples like suddha maddalam, and giving training in sculpture, temple architecture, iconography, etc. Pupils taking these special subjects can be given special encouragement by providing boarding, scholarship and other facilities. Boys who are not inclined to take up service in temples as a profession can benefit by the general education imparted in these schools and find employment elsewhere, and boys who show an aptitude for aagamas, etc., can be fully equipped to do temple service properly and in the traditional manner. Those who become proficient in geetam, natyam, vadya, silpam, etc., can maintain and pass on to the next generation the highest traditions in those arts. Oriental schools run on the above lines are bound to attract more students than purely Veda Patasalas or Aagama Patasalas. The Archakas can be induced, by giving a small addition to their remuneration, to learn the sthalapurana (local legend) of each temple and the songs and verses composed by devotees of old in praise of the presiding deity, so that they can enlighten worshippers about the sanctity of these temples. A medical section can also be attached to these oriental schools. Poojaris, who by tradition are trained to recite Mahabharata stories in temples, can also be given encouragement. By expanding the activities of our temples, in these and other directions, we will be able to inculcate in the younger generation the spirit of devotion and respect for temples and temple worship.
December 19, 1957.