Andhra Pradesh Temple Lands Being Sold


Apr 9, HYDERABAD, INDIA (HPI/CHRONICLE) In past centuries, most Hindu temples and ashrams were provided with land endowments to cover their operating expenses. Many temples and ashrams still retain these lands. However they have had increasing difficulty defending their ownership from squatters and land grabbers or even collecting rents due. The solution explained below will likely create controversy. While the lands are already owned by the temple's presiding Deity, temples today are looking at selling these lands and putting the money in a safer form of endowment.

Over 6,000 acres of urban lands belonging to the "Gods" are being put up for auction by the endowments department. This decision was taken after the department realized that land sharks had no fear of the Gods and were grabbing even "divine" property. After the endowments department expressed its inability to protect the lands, the government gave the green signal for the auction.

In Hyderabad district alone, temples under the endowment department own 4,559 acres of land. Similarly, Sri Narasimha Swamy temple at Simhachalam in Visakhapatnam has 400 acres in urban areas while Hathiram Matam at Tirumala has about 100 acres. The department has already auctioned 9,201 acres of temple lands in rural areas.

"It has become increasingly difficult to protect prime land in urban areas from land sharks," said A.B. Krishna Reddy, commissioner of the endowments department. "We approached the government and it agreed to the disposal of such lands in open auction." Mr. Krishna Reddy added that the department expected substantial revenue from the sale of lands. "The amount will certainly be huge," he said. "In places such as Hyderabad, land prices are very high."

For the present, the endowments department is only planning to auction urban lands. The endowments department owns 3,76,376 acres of land in the State out of which 94,136 acres are wetland and 2,248,136.06 acres are dry land. The department gets an annual income of US$14 million through lease of 1,62,829 acres. About 6,124 acres of endowment lands are caught in legal wrangles. "We will also auction 22 acres of prime land belonging to Kashi Visweshwara Swamy temple in Prakasam district," said Mr. Krishna Reddy.


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