Gaya's Vishnupad temple's glittering riches under focus

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Temple treasure
Patna, Jul 10: With the treasure trove at the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple grabbing the spotlight due to the massive haul totaling to close to an estimated Rs 1 lakh crore, the focus is on other temples that are likely to have similar treasures confined in its premises since time immemorial.

A similar incident has surfaced in Bihar, with the Bihar State Religious Trust Board (BSRTB) deciding to file a writ petition for the takeover of the 16th century Vishnupad temple at Gaya. Presently being managed by the Gayawal pandas under the guidance of the Vishnupad temple committee that has time and again foiled attempts by the government to take over the temple administration.

The trust intended to file a petition after a local court declared the ancient temple as private property of the priests and claiming that they were imbibed with the rights from none other than Lord Brahma. According to reports in an English newspaper, the BSRTB chairman Kishore Kunal has been quoted as saying, "If the Vishnupad temple can be declared a private property, no religious temple or mutt in the state can belong to the public, as they should." The case has been pending in a court in Gaya since the last 4 years.

An advocate speaking on behalf of the temple committee stated that the Gayawal pandas had official rights over the temple since it was a Vedi and was considered a tirthsthali as per Hindu mythology. He however admitted that "a case between the religious trust board and Vishnupad temple committee is pending."

But beside everything else, it is the assets of the temple that is highlighted and the bone of contention. The assets are estimated at Rs 400 crore and includes prime property near Dobhi in Gaya of 40 acres, buildings, gold and silver canopies. There are also sources that claim that the daily offerings especially during the pitripaksha mela are massive.

Though the exact date of construction of the 16th century temple is not verified, it is believed to have been re-built by the ruler of Indore, Ahilya Bai Holkar in 1787. It was at this time that Holkar built the impressive octagonal shrine with Lord Vishnu's footprints as the focal point of the shrine. Mythology states that the footprints are a symbol of good vs evil, when Lord Vishnu slayed Gayasur-a rakshasa, from which the city derived its name. The 40 cm footprint is imprinted in solid rock and stands in the middle of a silver plated basin.

The trust board chairman also claimed that efforts were on to declare the Lord Shiva temple at Deokuli, Sheohar district as public property. They have been successful in pronouncing the Thawe temple in Gopalganj as public property that was taken over from the hands of Hathwa estate.


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