Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple: Another hope for Hindus to regain its temple sinks

21st April 2021

21st April 2021

It has been a long-standing Hindu grievance that its temples are not under its control, and are in control of State governments, unlike places of other religious worships, such as Mosque or Churches of Muslims and Christians. 

The matter has been brought into focus once again after the Supreme Court last week ruled that Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple in Karnataka would be managed by an “overseeing committee”only, constituted by the Karnataka High Court, and headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice BN Srikrishna. 

The apex court was responding to a petition, challenging an order by the Karnataka High Court, which had quashed a state government order handing over the management of the Mahabaleshwar temple at Gokarna to the Ramchandrapura Mutt in Hosannagar. This after the Supreme Court had stayed the HC order. 

This decision was arrived at by a bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

Needless, to say it’s a blow once again to Hindu aspirations to reclaim its temples.

The hopes of Hindu devotees had soared after the BS Yeddiyurappa’s BJP government in 2008 had removed the temple from the list of shrines brought under the purview of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Acts, 1997.

The Mahabaleshwar temple in Gokarna, dedicated to Lord Shiva, finds mention in several Hindu scriptures. In 2008, the Yediyurappa government decided to remove the temple from the government control and hand the management to the Ramachandrapura Mutt. The state government, while transferring the temple to Mutt, had said the temple had seen no development since it was in control of a single family. 

The move, predictably, was opposed by the trustees of the temple. Their petition initially was dismissed by the High Court in 2010. 

But things changed when Congress came to power in 2013. It tried its darnest best to wrest the temple under government’s control. 

The argument went something like this by the K Siddaramaiah government: That after the government shed its control of the temple, as well as one of Udupi Sri Krishna temple, Brahmins had taken control of the temples and there was caste discrimination. Further, this was its advocate's pleading in the court during a hearing in September 2016: “The Mutt has funds running into crores of rupees, all of which goes to the Mutt. Therefore, an order may be passed to give the administration of this temple back to the government.”

In October 2016, the Siddaramiaiah government proposed appointing an administrator for the temple but several communities associated with the temple opposed it. 

In 2018, finally they got what they wanted. The Karnataka High Court passed an order quashing the 2008 order of the BJP government. The court ruled that the temple would continue to be listed among notified temples. It also appointed Justice BN Srikrishna as adviser to the committee. 

It led to Ramachandrapura Mutt filing a petition against the High Court order with the apex court, seeking to reinstate the 2008 order of the state government. After initially staying it, the apex court has lifted its stay on the Karnataka High Court order. 

The only silver lining is that the Supreme Court said in view of the several appeals related to the issue, it would not be appropriate to reinstate the 2008 decision of the then state government at this stage. 

The committee will have the Deputy Commissioner of the Uttara Kannad district as well as the Superintendent of Police of the same district in the committee. There would be assistant commissioner of Kumta sub-division, two eminent scholars/persons and two Upadivantas of Gokarna Temple too as members. 

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