In 2012, the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department decided to put up a dais on the second floor of its head office on Mahatma Gandhi or Nungambakkam High Road in Chennai. For this purpose, the HR&CE Department decided to take a sum of Rs 2.19 lakh from Arulmigu Vadapalani Andavar or Murugan Temple funds in August that year.
In the second half of that year, the HR&CE Department decided to construct a reception hall for its donors. In addition, it decided to alter the entrance and decorate the HR&CE Commissioner’s office. The Vadapalani Murugan temple was tapped again for the purpose.
In November 2012, the HR&CE Department withdrew Rs 4.95 lakh for this purpose, and in January 2013, another tranche of Rs 5 lakh was withdrawn from the Vadapalani Murugan Temple.
A year earlier in February 2011, the Tamil Nadu government asked the Vadapalani temple to contribute Rs 30 lakh for its scheme to ensure that pujas are held at least once a day in some of the temples that are short on funds.
The Vadapalani Murugan temple was again to contribute Rs 20 lakh for the same scheme in March 2015. An additional Rs 10 lakh was taken from the temple’s funds in June 2016.
Information received from the Vadapalani Murugan temple by T R Ramesh, president of Temple Worshippers Society, through Right to Information request shows that more than Rs 1.08 crore from the temple’s funds have been taken away by the Tamil Nadu government. These amounts have been taken from the temple’s funds in contravention of the HR&CE Act.
This is over a 10-year period starting 2006-07. It is likely that more of the temple’s money could have been taken by the Tamil Nadu government before 2006-07 and also in the last two years.
In 2017, when the HR&CE Department head office faced water shortage, its joint commissioner ordered the Vadapalani Murugan temple and five other temples in Chennai to bear the charges for getting water in a tanker. The joint commissioner’s order issued on 6 March 2017 said the Vadapalani temple will pay the charges incurred on Thursdays.
The other temples that had to bear the expenses were: The Thiruvottiyur Thyagaraja Swamy Temple (Mondays), Saidapet Karaneeswarar Temple (Tuesdays), Triplicane Sri Parthasarathy Temple (Wednesdays), Thiruvanmiyur Sri Marundeeswarar Temple (Fridays), and Besant Nagar Ashtalakshmi Temple (Saturdays).
There are more examples of how the HR&CE Department has taken funds from temples. A meeting of the department was scheduled on 19 September 2016 at the HR&CE head office.