How are temples regulated in India? Know all about temple trusts, laws and gender discrimination here
Why in News?
Prime Minister Modi has announced setting up of an independent trust to build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Know all about regulation of temples here.
Regulation of Temples: History
- It begins with the British era in India. While the British talked of Renaissance and Rationality, they supported keeping the state secular and religion as a separate issue.
- Before the modern Indian age, religion was a big part of ruling in medieval times. Earlier, Church was the regulator but after Thomas Hobbs advocated that State is above all, in 1840, the rule came in Britain that put the church below the State.
- The British brought the Religious Endowments Act 1863 in India.
- In India, secularism is guided through the Constitution. It is based on the Gandhian Principle of Sarva Dharma Sambhav or all religions are equal.
- Madras Hidu Religious Endowment Act was brought in 1923. The Acts objective was to provide for better governance and administration of certain Hindu religious endowments. The Government has the power to do so as per the Constitution.
- This Act was revamped in 1950 and made into article 25, 26.
- Later Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act 1951 was formed.
Judiciary on Regulation of Temples in India:
There was a case- The Commissioner, hindu religious endowments, Madras vs Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swaminar of Sri Shirur Mutt 1954 case.
In this case it was said that the Government has the power to make various regulatory measures for temples/ maths etc depending on the religious belief it carries.
All this could be done within the confinements of the Indian Constitution.
Here Judiciary believed the Government would end the evil practices that are practised in the religion.
The Court believed that the temple reforms would be beneficial to the Indian Society and would be a service to the Hindus.
Where does religion find place in the Constitution?
Religion is listed in the Concurrent list as item 28. It consists of administrative changes/ regulations regarding charities, temples, religious endowments and religious institutions.
Eg: States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Kranataka have passed laws mandating the reservation of women in the Board of Trustees. Andhra Pradesh even went far enough to give 50% reservation to women in temple trusts and committees.
Odisha and Puducherry have laws vice versa to the one stated above.
Famous Temples lacking Women in the Trusts:
- Shri Jagannath Puri ACt 1955
- Shri SiddhiVinayak Ganpati Temple Trust (Prabhadevi) Act
- Jammu and Kashmir Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act
Religions other than Hinduism also provide minuscule representation to the females.
The Wakf Act 1995 has section 14 that mandates some women representation in the mosques.
As per the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925, women are provided with the right to vote and be elected to the SGP committees.
Gender Inequality in Temples:
The temples have been regulated by Patriarchs since time immemorial . The priests have always been found to be a male.
For example Sabarimala temple in Kerala barred women of a "menstruating age" - defined as between the ages of 10 and 50 - from entering the premises. Such women were said to be unclean as per the religious beliefs. Later the Supreme Court said that the women can no longer be barred from entering the temple.
This has been counted as a violation of fundamental rights and gender inequality.Even the power corridors have been dominated with male members.