Himachal temples to melt holy gold

April 12th, 2011 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, April 12 (IANS) Like the Naina Devi and Chamunda Devi shrines, many Himachal Pradesh temples are flush with gold worth crores of rupees. And some of it could soon be yours for a price.

The state government has come out with a provision that allows temple trusts to melt tonnes of gold and silver lying in their coffers and convert them into coins and mementoes for sale.

An amendment to the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act of 1984 was made April 7 that allows conversion of 50 percent of the precious metal reserves in temples into mementoes.

“A notification that permits temples to melt the gold will be issued by the government this week. It will help temples to part with loads of gold and silver which have been lying there for decades and check pilferage,” Prem Sharma, in-charge of state-controlled temple trusts, told IANS.

The proceeds from the gold coins and other mementoes would be used by the respective trust for development and social activities, he added.

The hill state, also known as the “Land of the Gods”, has 28 prominent Hindu temples that have combined cash reserves of Rs.98 crore.

The popular shrine of Mata Chintpurni in Una district is the richest with Rs.41.78 crore in its kitty.

The shrine of Naina Devi in Bilaspur district has cash reserves amounting Rs.10.33 crore, whereas the shrines of Baba Balak Nath in Hamirpur district and Jwalaji in Kangra district have Rs.11 crore and Rs.8.67 crore cash respectively.

Other millionaire temple trusts include those of Chamunda Devi and Brajeshwari Devi in Kangra district and Bhimakali and Hateshwari in Shimla district.

A government official said the Naina Devi Temple Trust has over 120 kg gold, whereas the Mata Chintpurni Temple Trust has around 130 kg of the yellow metal.

Sharma said after melting a portion of their gold stock, the temples would make mementoes and coins with inscription of their respective deity.

The souvenirs would be made available in the temple trust-run shops at the current market rate of gold and silver.

“The purification of metal and conversion into souvenirs will be done on the pattern of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board in Jammu and Kashmir and Tirupati temple authorities in the south,” he added.

At present, the gold and silver are lying idle in strong rooms of the temple trusts.

Hilltop Naina Devi shrine, some 175 km from state capital, attracted around 2.3 million devotees in 2009 and the number went up to 2.5 million last year.

The shrine of Naina Devi saw record offerings of over Rs.11 crore in 2010 apart from gold and silver.

“There was an increase of Rs.2.03 crore in cash offerings at the shrine last year as compared to 2009. It broke the earlier (2009) record of Rs.9.29 crore,” said temple trust chairman Vinay Singh Thakur.

He said the temple got offerings in cash worth Rs.11.32 crore, 5.4 kg of gold and 338 kg of silver in 2010.

Several prominent shrines were brought under government ambit after the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1984, came into force.

An officer of the rank of commissioner has been made in charge of every temple trust to run and manage its affairs.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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