Hindu Priests cautious over SC order on Pandharpur temple

NASHIK: The priests in major temples in Nashik are cautious over reacting to the Supreme Court (SC) dismissal of the plea challenging the provisions of the Pandharpur Temples Act, 1973.

On Wednesday, the SC dismissed the petition that challenged the constitutional validity of certain provisions in the Act, which the petitioners claimed had abolished all their hereditary rights and privileges in connection with the temples of Vitthal and Rukmini at Pandharpur.

“I haven’t seen the judgment so far and would be able to comment only after I go through it,” said Devendra Pujari, the priest at Kalaram Mandir and a mechanical engineer by profession.

Pujari pointed out that affairs of most of the major temples in the district were being handled by trusts, except for performing the pujas of the respective deities. These trusts were headed by a district judge.

“It will be difficult to find similarity in the case between the Pandharpur Temple and the Kalaram Temple. Nevertheless, the rights of the priests have to be maintained and they are being honoured in Nashik,” Pujari said.

Pandurang Bodke, trustee of the Kalaram Mandir, said that the public trust registered with the charity commissioner had taken charge of the temple in the 1960s and has been organising all events since, including Ram Janmotsav. The 11-member trust comprises of four persons from the charity commissioner’s office, three from among the public, three from among priests and is headed by a district judge.

“The trust is responsible for carrying out all activities including maintenance, repairs and events from the public fund. The priests are given 48% of the share of the funds that are collected in donation box,” Bodke said.

Bodke said that a similar arrangement is in place at the Saptashringi Mandir and Agar Takli.

The case is a bit different in Trimbakeshwar, where the temple is managed by a nine-member body headed by a district judge. The chief officer of the Trimbakeshwar Muncipal Council is the secretary of the body. Four of its members are villagers and one each are from the Tungars, the Purohit Sangh and the Pujyaks, the priests.

“We Pujyaks are given a honorarium irrespective of the funds being collected in the donation boxes. There were no donation boxes before 2002 and the government grant would decide the honorarium,” said Satyapriya Shukla, one of the priests at Trimbakeshwar Mandir.

Avinash Gade of the Kapaleshwar Temple, where the priests have locked horns with the district administration over the issue of sharing revenue, said the matter was yet to be resolved. “We are not demanding full rights, but only want that our say in the temples should be upheld. There are other issues that are being resolved with the help of the district administration,” said Gade, who is also a lawyer by profession.

The affairs of the temple are being handled by a seven-member interim body headed by the tehsildar, Nashik. The other members of the body include three from the society, a divisional officer of the Nashik Municipal Corporation, Panchavati, and the inspector of the Panchavati police station.

“There is the issue of revenue sharing between the priests and the members of the Kapaleshwar trust. Two separate donation boxes have been kept – one each for the priests and the trust. We are looking for an appropriate solution, which will take some time,” tehsildar Ganesh Rathod said.

Source: Times Of India