Himachal temples house gold, silver worth Rs.178 crore

Himachal-MapDharamsala: Gold and silver worth Rs.178 crore is in the possession of 29 prominent government-controlled Hindu temples in Himachal Pradesh, Revenue Minister Kaul Singh said in the state assembly Saturday.

The government will sign an agreement with the public sector Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) for purification of four quintal and 73 kg of gold and 158 quintals and 81 kg of silver lying in the temples, he said.

Replying to a question, he said the total worth of the gold at the current market price is Rs.126.91 crore, while the worth of the silver is Rs.51.88 crore.

The temples have no mechanism to check adulterated gold and silver offered by the devotees, the minister said.

The conversion of the metals into souvenirs would be done after the purification, he said.

Ten percent of the gold can be used for various activities related to the temples, 20 percent can be invested in the State Bank of India’s gold bond scheme, 20 percent in reserve of the temples, while the remaining 50 percent will be minted for souvenirs, including coins and the mementoes.

Congress member Sanjay Rattan expressed concern over the lack of security arrangements for the huge quantity of gold and silver lying in the temples.

The shrine of Chintpurni in Una district – with one quintal and 72 kg of gold and 59 quintal of silver – is the richest, said Kaul Singh.

The temple got cash donations of Rs.84.04 crore between 2011 and 2013.

One quintal equals 100 kg.

Other rich temple trusts include those of Naina Devi in Bilaspur, Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari Devi and Chamunda Devi in Kangra district, Bhimakali in Shimla district, Mahamaya Balasundari temple in Sirmaur district and Baba Balak Nath in Hamirpur district.

The hilltop Naina Devi, the second richest temple, has accumulated one quintal and 48 kg of gold and 56 quintal of silver. It received cash offerings of Rs.50.61 crore in three years.

The Jawalamukhi and Brajeshwari Devi temples have 37 kg and 28 kg of gold, respectively. They got donations of Rs.25.38 crore and 12.61 crore from 2011 to 2013, respectively.

The Chamunda Devi, Baba Balak Nath, Mahamaya Balasundari and Bhimakali temples have 22 kg, 15 kg, 11 kg and 3 kg gold, respectively. Their silver reserves are two quintal, five quintal, 16 quintal and five kg, respectively.

The minister said these 29 temples have been included in Schedule 1 of the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act of 1984.

Source: Free Press Journal