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December 27, 1999
Stop Constructing Temples Abroad: Kanchi Acharya
Prakash M Swamy
His Holiness Jagadguru Shri Jayendra Saraswathi Swami has appealed to Indian Americans not to construct more temples than what is necessary in the US. He also said the appeal is meant for Hindus in other countries such as United Kingdom and Canada.
Indian Americans are reportedly involved in the construction of a dozen temples and the extension of more than 10 temples at a cost exceeding $ 25 million.
"Instead they could spend the money usefully to renovate dilapidated temples back home -- be it in Gujarat or Tamil Nadu. Thousands of ancient temples -- big and small -- are in a state of ruin and neglect with little or no financial support from the governments," he said.
In an exclusive interview at the Kanchi Kamakoti Math recently, the Acharya said it has almost become "a fad" to construct more and more temples and places of worship in the United Kingdom and United States.
"More often than not, temples are constructed to satisfy the ego and aspirations of individuals than offering places of worship to Hindus living abroad. There is no necessity for more than one temple in a city abroad," he said.
"Instead, they should use their influence to collect funds to repair dilapidated temples," he continued.
"There could be one temple in a city with all the deities than constructing temples for different deities at different places," he added.
Starting more temples abroad is not easy. Several times, those who construct temples find it difficult to employ qualified priests and it is not that easy to get visas for priests from India.
NRIs, who live in places where there are no temples nearby, should cultivate the habit of doing pujas and prayers at home daily and visit temples only on auspicious occasions. They should not attempt to construct temples in every small towns, he said.
Instead, he urged help for temples in India.
"There are temples with no funds even to light a diya leave alone performing regular pujas for the presiding deity thrice a day. These temples, constructed with great efforts by kings and saints, are very sacred and any help in renovating them is a sure way to get heavenly blessings," he said.
Urging NRIs to contribute generously to rebuild the dilapidated temples, he said every Hindu living abroad should take care of his family or village deity. "It is okay to construct new temples abroad, but what is more important is maintenance of existing temples back home."
The government may not have funds to renovate such dilapidated temples and if they have money, they may be reluctant to help because of political reasons.
On religious conversions, he said India was ruled by people from all religions -- Christians, Islam and Buddhism to name a few. Yet Hinduism survived against all onslaughts. British, Dutch, Portuguese and French all ruled India. Though they have left the country, their legacy of conversion is still on.
But money alone is not the prime reason for conversions, he added. There are factors like social strata, illiteracy, and social weakness.
Can anyone convert a Sikh to any other religion? he asked.
"No, because they are dedicated to their religion unlike Hindus," he added.
"We make Hindus feel proud of their religion and if this is achieved even million dollars can't make any impact," he said.
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