AN ARTICLE FROM-
(THE TIMES OF INDIA)
Maharashtras own temples of wealth
Bella Jaisinghani, TNN
Jul 10, 2011, 06.29am IST
The unprecedented treasure discovered at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala proves that spirituality is not the only wealth that temples a mass. From Mumbais richest Siddhivinayak temple that grosses up to Rs 49 crore annually to the Saibaba temple in Shirdi whose official annual income is in the range of Rs 320 crore figure said to be conservative at best the business of devotion is thriving in Maharashtra. Boosting its status is the fact that Lord Shani is the deity with the fastest growing number of worshippers in India. Over the past few years,the number of devotees visiting his nodal shrine in the town of Shani Shinganapur has swelled beyond measure.
The Lalbaug Raja Ganpati mandal,which is a make shift pandal,grosses Rs 18 crore during the 10 days of Ganeshotsav.
Breaking with tradition from previous years, temple administrators are no longer wary of disclosing their annual income. Mangesh Shinde, executive officer of Siddhivinayak temple, readily says that Mumbais richest temple earned an annual income of Rs 48. 89 crore in the fiscal year 2010-11. Of this, we received 38 crore by way of donations while puja bookings brought in around Rs 3 crore. Other assets include fixed deposits worth Rs 144 crore,110 kg gold and1,100 kg silver, says Shinde. We do not own real estate other than the Prabhadevi temple premises. Sources at the Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan put their annual income at Rs 320 crore. However,they add that they reserve hundreds of crores towards welfare schemes every year. Several more go into providing infrastructure and hospitality for tourists; a bus stand that is to be erected in the area must be extraordinary as the budget for it is nothing less than Rs20 crore. On the one hand, riches beget riches. Visuals of golden ornaments being donated to the Shirdi Sai Sansthan or ornate silver chhatras (umbrellas ) being offered to the Andhericha Raja Ganpati mandal have been known to drive more donors to these sites. Hundreds of bidders arrive at the Lal – baugcha Raja annual auction to buy precious offerings made by devotees each Ganeshotsav.
The pendulum swings in the opposite direction as well. We would prefer not to be included in the list of richest temples in the country, says the spokesperson of a prominent shrine in the state. This negatively prejudices not just devotees, but also government sources. They tend to hold back donations or funding for infrastructure. Individuals tend to divert their charity elsewhere.
(is a author and a contributing writer for Times of India.)
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