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BW Businessworld

Divine Wealth

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Mundane matters such as the state of the economy are for mere mortals to worry about, not for the Gods. They are not affected by a crashing market or a slowing economy. Donations flow in in good times or bad, and the bigger the businessman, the bigger is the offering. Be it Vijay Mallya donating a gold door to the Lord Subrahmanya temple in Karnataka, Mukesh Ambani donating Rs 5 crore to the Sri Venkateshwara Swamy temple in Tirumala or an anonymous businessman offering 25 kg of gold to the Somnath temple in Gujarat, a downturn only seems to further motivate them to pour their earnings into the laps of the deities.

Home to Sree Padmanabhaswamy, the world’s richest temple, and the Sri Venkateshwara temple, the most visited place of worship globally, south India seems to be the Promised Land — or perhaps, a land with promise. But even though the wealth showered on the Gods in India far exceeds that in other parts, we are still far behind the Vatican which has its very own bank to take care of its financial dealings.

Compiled by Ankita Ramgopal & Vishal Krishna

Oh My Gold!
The tag of being the richest temple in India in terms of gold stock changed places when the vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, in Thiruvanthapuram, were opened in 2011 to reveal a treasure trove with an estimated value of about Rs 1.1 lakh crore. And with one vault yet to be opened, that number could rise more than just a notch. Up north, the Harmandir Sahib, the gurdwara in Amritsar, too, has no shortage of gold; its annual income is pegged at over Rs 500 crore. Popularly known as the Golden Temple,  its assets are estimated at Rs 1,000 crore.

Divine Riches 
The Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple at Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, also known as Tirupati Balaji, is in a league of its own. Its earnings depend largely on hair offerings by devotees (which are later sold) and the ritual of donating gold equal to the devotee’s weight. The annual income of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, the trust that manages the temple, is pegged at Rs 3,000 crore, with assets valued at more than
Rs 35,000 crore.

The Goddesses
Goddesses are not far behind the gods in terms of popularity among the devotees. The shrine of Shakti at Vaishno Devi in Jammu and Kashmir was visited by more than one crore pilgrims in 2012. It received donations worth Rs 500 crore last year. Among churches, the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni in Tamil Nadu is known to be among the richest in India.

Pilgrim’s Progress
The Sabarimala temple at Pathanamthitta in Kerala is open only for a few days in a year when millions of pilgrims, mostly male, walk barefoot through the forested path to the shrine of Ayyappa located on a hill in south Kerala. The pilgrimage is associated with penance. The temple has an estimated annual income of Rs 300 crore. The Jagannath temple in Puri, associated with the famous Rath Yatra that attracts lakhs of devotees from across the world, earns around Rs 150 crore every year.
(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 17-06-2013) ]]>