In a move that reverberated in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sought details of gold held by two of the richest temples in India - Guruvayur and Sabarimala. Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, the richest, also in Kerala, was spared due to an ongoing case in the Supreme Court.
"We received the letter recently. We have entrusted the managing committee of the temple to take a final decision," said a senior official of the Guruvayur temple, who asked not to be named. Guruvayur — with an annual income estimated at Rs 50 crore — has a treasure of over 600 kg of gold.
Offering gold bars to temples is an age-old tradition in India. Around 20,000 tonnes of gold is estimated to be possessed by homes and temples.
The second biggest seasonal pilgrimage after Mecca, Sabarimala — attracting nearly three crore pilgrims — ‘earns' around R105 crore and 15 kg of gold annually.
Denying unconfirmed reports that RBI may approach major temples to buy gold, RBI's regional director S Gangadharan, dismissed the letter as a "routine exercise". "The RBI has no plans to buy gold from anyone for now."
"We will not allow the government to plunder shrines," said BJP state president V Muralidharan.