Lord Sri Ranganatha, presiding deity at the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, has decided to mix belief with business.
The deity at this 1,000-year-old Vaishnavite temple near Tiruchirapalli, 350 km from Chennai, owns a 98- acre property. Over centuries, shops and buildings have sprung up in this area. Now, the temple authorities have served 3,600 families an ultimatum: Start paying rent, or vacate the lord’s land.
The temple’s huge holdings came from land grants by various kings. It has the world’s tallest temple tower at its southern gateway that is 235 feet high and has seven prakaras (rectangular enclosures) with the seventh one being Srirangam’s sanctum.
“At some point in time, we have to establish the right of the Lord,” says MS Kavitha, joint commissioner of the temple, which is run by the state Hindu religious and charitable endowments (HR&CE) department. The temple’s legal right comes from a title deed, issued in 1866 and renewed in 1910 during the Raj, declaring about 320 acres in its vicinity belonged to the shrine.
Although Srirangamites are in no mood to take on the might of the State, what has irked them is the temple authorities’ move to stop registration of any land transaction without a no-objection certificate from them.