Pages of history portray that students of primary and secondary schools some decades past and now in their eighties can recollect names of local kings ruling in different regions of the land credited with many pro-people measures such as building water bodies, planting trees, construction of roads, building infrastructure for travellers and so on, not to forget raising temples that have stood the test of time. The pages of the same history also have portrayed the villainous and conquering marauders discredited with pillaging wealth, destroying temples rich with ornate sculptures as well as beautiful idols of Gods and Goddesses, waging wars against the land’s rulers, converting people into other faiths and killing resident people in thousands. Names of iconoclasts such as Malik Kafur who ruined the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebeed in early 14th century and Ghazni Mohammed who razed to ground the Somnath Temple in the present Gujarat have not erased from the memory of school students of yesteryears.
The land’s kings of the medieval times may have rested in the pages of history, but the indomitable spirit of building both simple-looking and ornate temples by the devout in the population, including munis and philosophers has sustained to this day. In this context, a loud-mouthed public speaker’s recent remark that there are more temples than toilets in the country is not in good taste. Let it be.
We learn from scholars that temples considered as God’s abode witnessed tranquil ambience as long as they were patronised as places of worship, marked by unalloyed devotion. Atheists, not believing in the existence of deities and agnostics who refrain from any religious doctrine among the literati, in spite of their rhetoric and eloquence, sharing public space with the believers and the devout, are in a different class from those who are stealing idols of Gods and Goddesses from temples for gain and causing destruction of places of worship, acting as modern-day Malik Kafurs and Ghazni Mohammeds as it were. Temples of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are the happy hunting grounds for these rogue elements in society.
Factors such as heritage image, exquisitely sculpted idols and frescoes, power of stability to individuals and the community, sustaining the land’s culture as well as traditions and so on don’t count with the treasure hunters looking for gold and jewellery beneath the sanctum sanctorum. If only Gods and God-related matters were kept free from gold and ornaments, both temples as places of worship and the societal fabric woven with devotion may have spared them from modern-day Malik Kafurs.