Now after 47 years, the tendency to donate money, jewelry and invaluable objects to all Gods in all temples have increased manifold. A number of myths further contributed to this proclivity to donate money and gold to Gods. But I’d like to limit it to the context of Tirupati, Balaji.
As per the mythology, a loan of one crore and 11.4 million gold coins was sought by Balaji from Kubera for his marriage with Padmavathi. To pay back the loan, devotees from all over India visit the temple and donate money. The temple receives as much as Rs 22.5 million in a day as donation! Gold is offered as a token of love for the God. In April 2010, 3,000 kg of gold was deposited with SBI bank by the temple. Around 50,000 to 100,000 devotees visit the temple daily and during festivals or special days, the number of devotees increases up to 500,000. The temple is the most visited religious place.
Now defunct English daily ‘The Amrita Bazar Patrika’ once carried an editorial written by its editor-in-chief Tushar Kanti Ghosh. It vivisected our mindless philosophy to donate money at temples without ever asking our inner selves as to what actually prompts us to do this idiocy. Here’s that explanation:
‘Humans pray to God only with material ambition and desire. Since we see only the give and take policy in our social intercourse, we tend to believe that until we give something (costly) to God, he’ll not give us anything worthwhile. In a way, we negatively and derogatorily equate God with our own decadent values and perceptions. We perceive God as someone like us in nature but much more powerful and resourceful than human beings. All our so-called devotion to God has a selfish motive. In other words, it’s a mundane and material motive that galvanizes all of us to donate money, diamonds, rubies and all that’s really costly. What will God do with these worldly things and where will these things and money will ultimately go are questions that never bother us because we’ve limited ourselves to feeling happy and fulfilled by giving away as much money as we can to appease God. This is social appeasement policy that is applied to making God/s happy so that divine power can bestow material gains on us. We’ve literally taken ‘jo doge, woh milega’ (What you give, you’ll get back the same) while making entreaties to God/s. We’re traders and our God’s a much greater trader.’
Tirupati just to see this asinine practice with my own eyes and got surprised to see even ‘highly educated’ people donate money, hair and what not. I once asked a priest, ‘Does Balaji love Gold and cash?’ His reply amused me. He said, ‘Gold and cash are of no use to Balaji. What makes him happy is your ‘sacred gesture’ of parting with your gold and money. He added, ‘God loves sacrifice!’ I added tongue-in-cheek, ‘Monetary sacrifice’!
In recent years, Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Tele Films contributed to perpetuating this silliness all the more. Moreover, we’re all in the throes of religious superstitions and are ready to do anything to make the angry deities happy. And what could be the better way than huge donations to temples like Tirupati, Shirdi among others?