Bhagyalakshmi at Charminar is a legal temple

Bhagyalakshmi at Charminar is a legal temple

By Kiran Kumar S on November 26, 2012

You might have heard about a book published 21 years back, Hindu Temples, What Happened To Them? 

Volume 1 was by Arun Shourie, Harsh Narain, Jay Dubhashi, Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel: 

Volume 2 was by Sita Ram Goel: 

There was a systematic study of what happened to thousands of Hindu temples across India which don't exist as they did centuries back. Elaborate evidence was accumulated, studied and presented in these two volumes. Except the Ayodhya, almost all of these cases of temples are not in public memory or media debate today. People have just 'moved on' as you hear in intellectual circles. 

But how does the matter come up in political and media circles, even if a tiny (just a few square feet) temple is attached to a structure that is remotely Islamic? Yes, we are talking about the Bhagyalakshmi Temple in Hyderabad, attached to the famous heritage icon, Charminar. It's a tiny structure, held very high on the devotion scale by lakhs of local Hindus and happens to be adjacent to Charminar, but not inside its premises. 


Temple did not exist before!! 

These are the screams you will hear periodically, whenever political heat is turned up in old city Hyderabad. Let's examine the issue using the details from credible authors and important local politicians about the current episode of Bhagyalakshmi Temple. 

Two key basics of Hindu worship 

Firstly, we must understand one basic heritage of Hindu dharma. Hindus regard almost all things as sacred in this world. Bhagawan or Bhagawati exists everywhere. Go to any village in India and you can find numerous statues or images of Devas and Devis under trees, at the village centre, next to houses, inside houses, next to schools, in front of hospitals/clinics, in shops, in vehicles, in parks and pretty much everywhere. All it takes is a stone to form a temple once people develop enough devotion to that structure. Formal temples built at once using Agama Shastras and Prana Pratishatapana surely help, but you don't need a formal building for worshiping. In many cases, temples evolve once devotees increase, from the smaller structure before. 

So if anyone says the temple did not exist, they must understand that a temple or structure in the current form might not have existed. But that does not mean people did not regard that spot as sacred. 

Secondly, one also needs to understand that Hindu dharma is an ever evolving dharma (loosely translated as religion, but not exactly a religion). You might have worshiped a Devi (goddess) in one name today, but a few generations later she might be worshiped with a more contemporary name. My great grandfather worshiped 'Vinayak' but I worship 'Ganapati', for example. So today's Bhagyalakshmi might have been worshiped with another name before, as Devis have thousands of names literally (refer to Lalita Sahasra Nama for instance). Bhagyalakshmi may have been worshiped as Maisamma or another name. It is very common in the Telangana area which has Hyderabad in it to  have Yellamma, Mahankali and Durgamma as names for devis. But at the core, Hindu dharma scholars will clearly show you the link of all devi worship to the one female power of the almighty. 

Why now? 

So, why this hullabaloo about Bhagyalakshmi temple now? Politics! Nothing more, nothing less. One section of Hyderabad politics is against this temple (not just today, but before also), while the other section is fighting for Hindu rights aggressively. Supporting the former section of politicians, some papers produce 'evidences'. It's usually the same people who doubt even the narration of even the Telangana native Hindu girl Bhagmati becoming Hyder Begum after religious conversion, on whose name Hyder-a-bad has been setup. 

Let's examine the issue from various angles. 

From Books: 

Read the current Government of India Minister, and former Under-Secretary-General of United Nations, Shashi Tharoor's book Elephant, Tiger & Cellphone. On page 42 he describes Bhagyalakshmi Temple at Charminar clearly. The key takeaway from this very learned man's book is this: "But at the foot of the city's most famous monument, the four-turreted Charminar, sits a Hindu temple to the goddess Mahalakshmi, the priests chanting their mantras for centuries under the celebrated Islamic minarets."

Read Srikanta Ghosh's Indian Democracy Derailed: Politics and Politicians, published in 1997. On pages 73-74 he gives some key information. Srikanta Ghosh was with the Law Research Institute of Calcutta. 

-       The Charminar temple was in her memory. 

-        Even now (in 1997 when the book was written), a Harijan woman is the trustee of the temple. 

-        Bhagyalakshmi temple's desecration on November 23, 1979, has no parallel. See this clipping from the book, for more details of why the temple was attacked in 1979.

Read Roshen Dalal's book (page 220) where it is described as to why Goddess Lakshmi is linked to Charminar's guard. This is more from the local stories. 

From the local politicians' claims: 

Let us present three local politicians, who are supporting the temple.
First, Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee's General Secretary, G Niranjan, claims the following, as reported by Siasat 

1.      Till 1979, it was just a two-three feet idol and after it got damaged after being hit by a RTC bus, the then Chief Minister Marri Chenna Reddy ordered the construction of a temple through the Endowments Department. 

2.      Mir Mahboob Ali Pasha, the 6th Nizam, had sent puja articles to Bhagyalakshmi temple during the Musi floods of 1908. Yes, the Congress leader is mentioning a 104-year-old event involving this small temple. 

3.      Senior citizens with G Niranjan, Dharamchand Tayal (76), Naga Hanumantha Rao (76), Mallesh Goud (69) and Raj Ratnam (63) claimed that they have been performing puja at the temple since their childhood. 

4.      Niranjan said he was now 61-year-old and he has been visiting the temple and also the Chilla abutting the Charminar since he was five. That means puja is being performed by the Congress's general secretary, who is a local in the area, for 56 years! 

Second, Andhra Pradesh's BJP MLA and party chief, G Kishan Reddy, has confidently tweeted that the State Government endowment records clearly prove the existence of Bhagyalakshmi temple statue for last 200 years. Can anyone deny?

Third, Raja Singh of Telugu Desam Party. He is associated with the Facebook page Sri Ram Channel which is in the forefront of support for Bhagyalakshmi temple. His Facebook page also has support to the temple: 

From the Government Record 

The Andhra Pradesh Government's Endowments Department clearly lists Charminar's Bhagyalakshmi temple under the serial number 4839 as a legitimate temple bringing revenue to the Government, under the classification 6C. If the temple was 'illegal', why would a secular Government extract its income for Government use? 

From the culture and heritage of Hyderabad 

Beyond the politics, books and Government records, it is very clear that local Hyderabad people have always regarded this small temple as a core part of their cultural and religious heritage. Of course, they want to keep it that way for the future too. We have talked to many local people who recall generations of devotees for this famous temple. If any journalist wants to go further and talk to the local people, leave a comment and we will assist you in interviewing local Hindus who have patronised the Bhagyalakshmi Temple for long time. 

For decades, Sri Bhagyalakshmi Temple at Charminar has been a well sought out place for Hindu men, women and children.

This is how the small temple is decorated using temporary extension during Dussehra and Deepawali festivals for a few days each year. After the festivals, the extended decorations are removed. Note that all decorations are temporary, and is on the street side, with absolutely nothing going inside the historic Charminar. There are thousands of such temporary decorations across India, during various religious festivals and this one is not anything out of the ordinary.

During other festivals too this temple is crowded. Men, women and children assemble in the narrow space to ring the temple bells, offer flowers, coconuts and offer puja to Goddess Lakshmi, and move on quickly. This picture is from Ugadi festival, which is new year's day for Andhra Pradesh Hindus.

During major festivals like Deepawali, the queues of devotees are very long, with thousands of men and women waiting in separate lines around Charminar. This queue is from the 2012 Deepawali.

The latest dispute 

For decades, every Daussehra and Deepawali sees the extra decoration of the temple and murti. Celebrations are going on mostly without any objection from any political party, police or the courts. The Police Commissioner's office should have the details of decades of celebrations submitted by the temple's patrons. The latest temple structure was constructed by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in the 1970s, most likely a reconstruction as the original statue was damaged by a Government bus ramming into it. With the temple clearly listed in the Endowments Department records available online, with its donations from devotees used by the Government for decades, there is no question of any legal issue with this temple. 

The main objection of the temple's opponents is that it may be damaging the heritage site Charminar. This 'protect Charminar monument' argument seems lame, political and most likely communal. Because, even though the temple is clearly outside the Charminar, with all decorations and gatherings happening on the street side, there is a 'chilla', or Muslim religious site, inside the Charminar complex. You can see in this picture the details. The temple's flags are on the left, while the chilla is on the right with a green banner, inside the Charminar complex. If you watch carefully, you can see that the Chilla is damaging the Charminar with black marks (maybe due to incense smoke). If someone truly wanted to 'protect' the heritage monument, they would have also spoken strongly against a Muslim religious site inside the more-than-400-year-old Charminar with black stains right over that site.


The irony is that, the same people who went to court against the temple's temporary decoration in 2012 wanted to march in thousands to the chilla inside the Charminar to offer 'salaam'. The police prevented such massive crowds from gathering and arson and violence broke out, resulting in the arrest of many local politicians. 

What should be done? 

The important thing to note is that peace is essential. Bhagyalakshmi temple should be left as is. It has existed for a long time, it has been a sacred Hindu site in independent India, it is a legal temple registered by the State Government's Endowments Department, generating revenue for the Government, and it is a sign of the cultural/religious diversity of Hyderabad. 

The other key thing is that the temporary temple decorations happen for a few days, during major festivals, and are completely on the street side. They would in no way affect the heritage site of Charminar physically. 

Picture credits: Sri Ram Facebook channel, Newswala, Umasudhir at WordPress.

Courtesy : NITI Central

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