In recent time a few opportunists have been receiving handouts from the State to build mandirs. This is not a policy of the State as such but a surreptitious arrangement between those people who have aligned themselves with the government to win not just personal favors but to leverage their influence in the community. Is that devotion or blasphemy? I think it is an insult to Hindu dharma when Hindu leaders accept taxpayers’ dollars as personal favors from the State.
The Deity in a mandir is for personal worship. It is a Being that is dear to the devotees and not necessarily to taxpayers. I think the same can be applied to all faiths. It should be left to the devotees to take their hard-earned cash and contribute toward building a house for their Deity.
When my family was having a pooja, I was given 25 cents to give to the neighbor for the few leaves because it was understood that conducting a pooja means giving back the Deity part of what you have earned.
I am not against asking the government to provide financial assistance for festivals including Phagwa, Divali or concerts featuring songs, music, dance and tassa. In fact, the Hindu community needs to be more vocal and aggressive in its demands for funding from the State. After all, Hindus are taxpayers also.
Is this backroom dealing between a few Hindu leaders and the State genuine or is it hush money? I think it is hush money because those who receive money in that manner from the State are never going to be critical of the government of the day. They, like corbeaus, would stomach all the wrongs of a government to satisfy their ambitions.
I know of two mandirs that were funded by the State and these places hardly attract people and are empty throughout the day. I would occasionally drop by to see if people are using the facility, but this is not so. The individuals who negotiated this arrangement with the state were usually unpopular but there was hope that by providing them with majestic mandirs their respect and influence in the community would rise.
A mandir must have programs to reach out to the poorer sections of the community. Sri Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda have espoused the philosophy of Daridra Narayan or seeing God in the poor. Once Sri Ramakrishna was so moved with the poverty of the people that he insisted that the land lady feed and clothe them. In Trinidad and Tobago worship is fast becoming an exclusive club for the members to worship and socialize, not batting an eyelid in relation to the plight of farmers and the poor. Nevertheless, there are still a few devotees who engage in seva in a big way that make the community proud.
In India today several mandirs are under the control of state governments. In Tamil Nadu alone more than 40,000 mandirs are under the control of the government and the offerings of devotees that run into hundreds of millions of dollars are used for the good of the general public – schools, hospitals, roads, etc but minimally for the upkeep of the mandir.
The other communities-Islamic, Christians and Sikhs- are in control of their mosques, churches, guruwardwars respectively to spend on their communities. Sadly, it is anti-Hindu politicians who in their hatred for Hindus who indulge in this bias conduct much to the anger of the majority Hindu population.
Is it not haram for a Muslim to benefit from donations made to a Hindu deity or idol? The same question can be posed to the Christians. But that is the hypocrisy that prevail among men today. It is like what is happening here in our country- taxpayers’ dollars are being used to prop up leaders in the Hindu community who are losers!
So, if I must worship today there would be no need to pay money for leaves and flowers but just walk into someone property and pick. Worship today has become cheap; some may say it is banditry. Nevertheless, I have consoled myself to the reality that this is V.S. Naipaul’s country!