The pontiff of the Madurai Aadheenam (a Tamil Shaivite monastery) slammed the Hindu religious and charitable endowments (HR & CE) department on Monday and called for the department to be disbanded, accusing them of corruption.
The HR & CE department administers more than 44,000 temples and trusts in Tamil Nadu.
“The government does not interfere in the functioning of churches. The same goes for mosques. But the government interferes in the functioning of our temples through the HR & CE department. This department has turned our temples into a den for plunderers. It should be disbanded,” the chief of the Madurai Aadheenam, Harihara Desika Gnanasambantha Paramacharaya, said during a meeting organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Madurai.
“They (temples) should be ideally given to us (Aadheenams), but we won’t mind even if they don’t give them to us. A judge with a panel of lawyers should administer the temples. The panel will also consult pontiffs and local people. This is how temples should be managed,” Paramacharaya added.
In August 2021, Paramacharaya took over as the 293rd head of the Madurai Aadheenam, established 1,500 years ago, and has been critical of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which formed the government in May 2021. His predecessors stayed away from making political comments.
The pontiff had taken on the DMK government last month when the Mayiladuthurai district administration imposed a ban on Pattina Pravesam, a practice of carrying the head of the Dharumapuram Adheenam on a palanquin. The Madurai Aadheenam had said that the pontiff was receiving death threats for saying that he would carry the palanquin if the ban isn’t reversed. “I will go to Delhi and complain to the home minister if I continue to receive death threats,” he had said. With the intervention of HR&CE minister P K Sekar Babu and chief minister M K Stalin, the ban was reversed.
Reacting to the latest statement from Paramacharaya, HR&CE minister Babu on Monday said that the Madurai Aadheenam was making controversial statements only to be in the limelight. “All the pontiffs and seers are on the side of the chief minister. Just because he has made some unnecessary comments, it doesn’t mean I have to respond to it.”
Interestingly, Paramacharaya’s elevation was challenged by fugitive self-styled ‘Godman’ Nithyananda in 2021, stirring up a controversy over the succession. The 292nd pontiff of the Madurai Adheenam, Sri Arunagirinathar, died on 13 August 2021 and had appointed Nithyananda as his successor in 2012. However, after a few months, Arunagirinathar retracted his decision following controversies and challenges to the appointment. He then appointed Paramacharaya as his successor in 2019.