This morning, NDTV, or was it CNN-IBN, ran a news story about the consecration of a new temple in Sripuram near Vellore in Tamil Nadu. So, what’s the fuss, you may ask. The fuss is that the said temple is built using 1.5 tonnes of gold. Yes, you read that right. 1.5 tonnes of gold. According to Chennai Online, the temple is built mainly from gold and copper. Except the walking path, the entire structure has been made of gold and copper. It has been built at a total cost of Rupees Six Billion ($15 million). My first reaction to this piece of news was that all the money spent was a royal waste. Just imagine! The money spent on the temple could have been used to build at least 10 hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment or schools with excellent facilities. Instead, it has been lavished in a building that is of no use to anybody, least of all those who really need help.
I am a Hindu too. I believe in God too. But, I do not believe that 15 million dollars must be spent to keep Him happy. I firmly believe that any money spent for the welfare of those who really need it will make God happy. They say God is omnipresent and omniscient. Then, why build a temple of gold to house him? Are we not trying to confine him to a gilded cage? Is there any point in spending so much money to build something that will serve no larger purpose to society? I may sound like an atheist when I say this, but the fact remains that India’s temples are the richest institutions of the country today. The daily income of the Tirumala-Tirupathi Devasthanam is higher than the turnover of most companies. Granted that the TTD runs charities and uses the money earned for the greater good of humanity. But this temple at Vellore? How is it going to help those who survive with less than a dollar a day? How is it going to help those who walk tens of kilometres everyday to get a pail of drinking water?
My heart bleeds when I think of the colossal waste of money that this temple is. It bleeds when I realise that the temple is a symbol of everything that is wrong with India today. It symbolises the growing divide between the rich and the poor. It symbolises the harsh reality that the Indian diaspora all over the world is more willing to contribute to the construction of this pointless and extravagant temple in the hope that they will be relieved of their sins, than to contribute to the establishment of a school in a remote village in India. India ranks 126th among 177 countries in the UN Human Development Report. How is India to attain the status of a developed country by 2020 as our esteemed former President Dr. Kalam hopes, if this waste is to continue? It is time we wake up and realise that building temples and other places of worship at massive costs is going to get us nowhere. It is time to sit up and take note of the fact that the money thus spent is needed elsewhere. Think about it. 15 million dollars could have contributes to schools for the entire district. It could have meant better irrigation for the arid lands of the country. Or, it could have meant better health care for the millions who cannot afford private health care. We need to sit up and protest. Otherwise things will never change.