Following the discovery of a huge treasure trove from the recesses of the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the Vishnupad temple at Gaya has come under the spotlight with the Bihar State Religious Trust Board (BSRTB) deciding to file a writ petition for the takeover of the 16th century temple.
At present, the temple is being managed by Gayawal pandas under the aegis of the Vishnupad temple committee, which had foiled the previous bid of the government to takeover the temple management.
In 1998, a local court had declared it as a private property of the priests, who claimed to have got the rights over the temple from Lord Brahma.
Informed sources said that the religious trust board was contemplating to file a writ petition in the Patna high court seeking issuance of a directive to the Gaya district court to settle the case at the earliest.
BSRTB chairman Kishore Kunal told HT, that the case has been pending with a Gaya court for more over four years. "If the Vishnupad temple can be declared a private property, no religious temple or mutth in the state can belong to the public, as they should," he said.
However, an advocate of the temple committee, Onkarji told HT that the Gayawal pandas have traditional rights over the temple because it was a 'Vedi' and one amongst the 'tirthsthali' of Hindu mythology. He accepted that "A case between the religious trust board and Vishnupad temple committee is pending."
According to a conservative estimate, the total wealth of the temple is projected at Rs 400 crore. The age-old temple has nearly 40 acre land near Dobhi in Gaya besides several buildings, gold and silver canopy. Sources say that the daily offerings, particularly during the pitripaksha mela, are huge.
Though the origins of the temple are unknown, Ahilya Bai Holkar, the ruler of Indore, had rebuilt the present octagonal shrine with Lord Vishnu's footprints at the centre in 1787. The footprints symbolized the act of Lord Vishnu in subduing Gayasur-a rakshasa -after whom the place takes its name. The 40 cm long footprint of Lord Vishnu is imprinted in solid rock and surrounded by a sliver plated basin.
Kunal said, the religious trust board was also trying to declare the famous Lord Shiva's temple at Deokuli in Sheohar district as public property. The BSRTB has already declared the Thawe temple in Gopalganj as a public property and set up a committee headed by the present SEBI chairman U K Sinha to manage its funds. Earlier, it was the private property of the Hathwa estate.
The committee, however, is still not functional because the then DM of Gopalganj had refused to be part of it as long as a representative of the Hathwa estate remained its member.