History Of The Ramanathaswamy Temple Administration

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The Ramanathaswamy temple has developed its own administrative set up. But no source of information is available for the study of the administration of the temple till the coming of the Nayak rule. An inscription dated A.D.1581 refers to the taxes received in the treasuries of the Nayaka and Sokkanatha on account of the Rameshwaram temple and a gift of 700 Pon or gold to this temple by Virappa Nayaka, the son of Visvanatha Nayak.

In A.D. 1582 gift of land for the merit of Viswanatha Nayak by Virappa Nayak. This inscriptional evidence proves that, the Nayaks had control over the temple. A copper plate deed signed by Tirumalai Nayak and his subordinate Dalavay Setuthupathi on one side and the Gurukkal of the Rameshwaram temple, on the other side, prove the control of the Nayaks over this temple. According to this deed the priests agreed to conduct the services without any default. If they failed, they would remit one thousand and two hundred gold coins as fine and quit the office. From this record, one can understand that the Sethupathis were the rulers of the Ramanathapuram and they were under the control of the Nayaks of Madurai. Sethupathis of Ramnad administered the temple affairs on hereditary basis. Hereditary trustee means the trustee of a religious institution, the succession to whose office develops by hereditary right or is regulated by usage or is specifically provided for by the founder, so long as such scheme of succession is in force.

In A.D. 1609 Dalavay Sethupati gave the right to one Ramanathapandaram to manage the temple estates and control the servants and lease holders of the temple with powers to punish them if they neglected the performance of their duties. For centuries, the institutions have been managed by a succession of Pandarams. There were frequent disputes between them and the Sethupathis with regard to the management of the temple, in the course of which the Pandarams seem to have destroyed many valuable inscriptions and copper plates belonging to the temple.

In A.D.1810, Rani Mangaleswari Nachchiyar had complained that, the ceremonies of the temple were not conducted properly by the Pandarams. This was informed to the said Pandaram, on 7th May 1810 and he was warned that if he failed to prevent such irregularities the Collector would be forced to make further enquiries to the complaint. The Devasthanam and Chatrams of Rameshwaram were resumed by R.Peter, owing to the mismanagement of the Rameshwaram Pandaram. The management was therefore entrusted to the Tahsildar of Ramnad and subsequently to the Subcollector until Ramaswamy Sethupathi was put in possession of the Ramnad Zamindari.

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The Managers of the Ramnad Zamindari urged that the right of nominating Pandarams to the Rameshwaram is vested in them, that the present Pandaram was not regularly appointed and that he is unfit for the office. They produced several documents to prove their right. In A.D.1834, the Pandaram was accused of murdering of Bairaghi, whom he stabbed to death and was awaiting the trial. In his absence, he nominated his own manager for the conduct of management. The Collector had no confidence in the Pandarame. So he reported to the Board the circumstances and he appointed an Ameen for the conduct of the duties. The Collector recommended that the following provisions he enacted as future rules for the management of Rameshwaram.

The receipt and expenditure of the temple should be under the immediate superintendence of Pandaram, who should appoint and dismiss the servants subject to an appeal to the Zamindar and Collector. All collections should be lodged in the treasury of the temple. An overseer was appointed on behalf of the Zamindar. By this and other depositions of the witnesses it clearly appeared that the Ramnad Zamindar had the power of superintendence.

In A.D.1893, Raja Bhaskara Sethupathi was appointed as the permanent Manager of Rameshwaram temple. He remained for the past one century and a half mere Sethupathis in name only, may the great Ramanatha, so great that era long the Sethupathis became the hereditary Trustees of this Devasthanam and it granted to have that privilege accorded in my days. He also remarked welcome news of the dismissal of Rameshwaram Pandaram altogether with the Pandaram and God be praised.

He was a deeply religious and God-fearing man and has gained the blessings of the Lord of Rameshwaram. He had faith in the great power of my Divine mother, Sri Parvathavardani. She never gave him up. The Zamindar of Devakottai became the next manager.

In A.D. 1912 the Devasthanam was managed by a Trustee controlled by a Committee of five members. In A.D.1950 the scheme settled by the Sub court of Ramnad, in O.S. No.323 of 1910 and modified by the High Court of Madras in A.S. No.31 of 1912 shall be further modified as follows and it shall come into force from the date of this order. New temple management scheme was formed as per the scheme given by the above judgment delivered on 5th march 1960 and thereafter the present administration is being run on the basis of it. The temple and its properties are now managed and administered in accordance with the provisions of the H.R. and C.E Act of 1959. Accordingly the Board of Trustees should consist of not less than three members and not more than five persons. This board will consist of five members among whom one shall be from Adi Dravida or Scheduled tribe and one shall be a woman. The period of this trust board is two years. For the first time in 30 years, the authorities at the Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple have undertaken polishing and cleaning works on panchaloha and copper idols in the temple. As the Rameshwaram temple construction was done in different years by different Kings, the temple measures have been taken which include installation of burglar alarms, inner locking, fixing iron gates and appointment of night watchmen.

The income of the temple is derived mostly from the endowed villages, contributions, the offerings of the pilgrims and devotees and receipts from the sale of tickets for the various services and the rent from the buildings and shops that belonged to the temple. A hundi box is available at the main entrance of each sannidhi into which devotees put their cash offering. The hundi boxes are opened periodically in the presence of officers and the public and the proceeds are taken to the temple account. The Ramanatha Swamy temple, Rameshwaram recently saw a huge hundi collection Rupees on crore according to sources of pilgrims and visitors, during the Tamil month Adi.Gandamathana Parvatham, a two storyed Mandapam on a sandy elevation about 2km west of the temple (the highest point in the whole of Island) is believed to have the two sacred feet of SriRama, who looked for the way to reach Sri Lanka. Pligrims gather in this place for having Darshan of the above sacred feet.

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