Temple Economics: A Book that can Appeal even to Atheists [Part -1]

Temple Economics: A Book that can Appeal even to Atheists [Part -1]
Image Courtesy: Touropia

This is a review of Part I of the book, “Temple Economics,” by Sandeep Singh. The second volume in this two-volume series, “A Decade for Temples,” will be reviewed later:

Arthvyavstha developed because of the knowledge created, developed, stored, and disseminated by the mandir/temple.

“The root of happiness is mandir

 The basis of the mandir is prosperity

 The basis of prosperity is good management

 The basis of good management is “self-control”

The author of “Temple Economics,” Sandeep Singh, is like a math teacher we’ve never encountered in our school time. He has made significant efforts to explain the entire subject of temple economics (mandir arthvyavastha) from basics to advanced concepts, comprehensively. Most readers tend to skip the preface and directly jump to the first chapter/unit, but the preface of this book is a must-read.

In the preface, the readers can observe and discern the author’s attachment to the subject of temples, and one can feel the emotion and sincerity behind his words written in the preface:  “Except Hindus everyone got independence on 15 August 1947. Hindus are till date struggling to free their temples from the clutches of the secular government which took over the power in 1947, after transfer of power.”

As a scholar of economics, Sandeep Singh has chosen a graph as the cover of this book. After reading the book, one will get to know the graph’s significance, or what the author wants to tell which directly pertains to the book.

The book is divided in four parts: Part I — Arthashastra of Mandirs; Part II — Destruction of Mandir and its Arthvyavastha; Part III — Loss of Mandir Ecosystem, Post-Independence; and Part IV — Need to Reestablish the Mandir Ecosystem.

This book does not just focus on the arthik (economics) activities of the mandir, it also includes quotations from different books and delves into the issue of Sanatana dharma in the very beginning. For example, it highlights many products that are the results of mandir-based arthvyavastha, for instance, the saree. It presents rangoli not just as a means of decoration but also associated with psychology.

The standout feature of this book is that the author provides the latest references and YouTube videos to watch, after every unit of every part, ensuring their relevance and accessibility.

In the first part, the author strongly emphasizes using the original Sanskrit-Hindi words rather than relying on their loose English translations. Although Part I is all about temple economics, the author has made efforts to explain the most prominent aspect of the book — why we should use the word “mandir” instead of the word “temple”.

He explains that a temple is a place of worship for all faiths, whereas the mandir is the abode of “Bhagwan”. Additionally, he also emphasizes the verity of why one must use Arthashastra and not “economics,” as in the West even prostitution is included in their GDP, whereas Acharya Chanakya pointed out that arth should be generated in dharmic ways, that includes trade, agriculture, and productive activities. The crucial part of the Arthashastra is dandaniti which deals with fines and punishments.

He also offers readers several synonyms for “mandir” based on the many scriptures that offer insight into Hindu temples and temple architecture. For some people, mandir means a sacred mountain, climbing which one can attain self-realization while for others mandir means the Universe. He also delves into the fact that mandir can be classified on many factors like the origin of the deity, ownership, scripture-based classifications, the posture of the deity, and so on.

Sandeep Singh further describes the mandir-based Arthvyavastha in this fashion:

“Temple economy is a new concept. Mandir-based arthavyavastha is as old as the mandir. The money was generated and circulated in society because of the mandir, making it prosperous and over time wealthy. The right word is not wealthy but vaibhavshali. Vaibhav is beyond wealth. It encompasses richness with power, intelligence, ethics, and morality.”

The construction of mandirs and their maintenance offered employment to many architects, craftsmen, and sculptors.

The author lists and describes several utilities of big mandirs: “They had civic as well as religious uses; they fulfilled the purposes of a town hall, college, and technical school. The people met in the temple porches to elect representatives for local bodies, and to listen to sacred music, recitations, or watch plays. The schools attached to the temple were the repositories of the philosophical lore which were the main source of religious life.”

Singh uses both contemporary instances as well as old examples for readers to get the relevance of what they are reading. He has also incorporated detailed case studies in every chapter. While discussing towns or cities developed because of the mandir, Singh categorizes cities into three types:

  • Mandirs were at the center of the city and the city developed around them: the best instance is the City of Thanjavur.
  • The city developed because of a lot of mandirs: for example, Bhubaneswar.
  • The city is centered around a single cult center or a tirtha: for instance, Prayagraj developed because of the sangam and the Kumbh Mela.

Singh has further categorized and associated the mandir’s activities in three easy points:

  • Arthvyavstha developed because of the making of the murti and the mandir:

In this case he delves into several aspects of murti making, starting from the imagining of the cosmos (which plays a vital role in sanatana dharma), mathematics, and metallurgy. He points out to the vitality of architecture and civil engineering, acoustics, astronomy, physics, and metallurgy. In each of the aspects, he gives the finest examples of mandir and murti while easily explaining the difficult technicalities of these aspects.

  • Arthvyavstha developed because of puja in the mandir:

In this matter, he throws light on the upachara and samskaras that impact arthvyavastha and knowledge. These are Yagya Veda, decoration, prayer, karma kaanda, prasad, music -dance and drama, toys,  painting, and the most prominent —  literature.

  • Arthvyavstha developed because of the activities of the mandir:

Singh discusses how mandirs of ancient times used to finance schools, gurukulas, and universities. Also, mandirs stored knowledge in different forms, with one of them being in the form of libraries. He also adds the well-known fact that court systems operated in the premises of mandirs.

Singh showcases this beautiful and perfect categorization of the economic activities of the mandir through seven case studies.

One of the most fascinating and prominent units of this book is titled “Different Facets of Mandir and their Impact on Arthvyavastha”. In this unit, readers will find out the numerous facets of mandir-based Arthvyavastha. The ten facets that he describes are the following:

  1. Karmakanda Samsakara-based Arthvyavastha
  2. Prasad-based Arthvyavastha
  3. Shilpkala-based Arthvyavastha
  4. Nritya, Natya, Sangeet-based Arthvyavastha
  5. Parikrama-based Arthvyavastha
  6. Tirth Yatra-based Arthvyavastha
  7. Mela-based Arthvyavastha
  8. Matham-based Arthvyavastha
  9. Sampradaya-based Arthvyavastha
  10. Aadhyatamik institution-based Arthvyavastha

In Karma Kaanda based arthvyavastha he describes the significance of rituals while giving examples of flowers that are most used in this ritual. Singh mentions,  according to a business website report, Delhi’s Ghazipur flowers were sent to Vaishno Devi Mandir — for decorating its premises and also for offering to the main deity — which was worth three crores rupees.

In prasad-based arthvyavastha, the author states that “Prasad is a factor of local produce, seasonality, nutritive requirement of the body according to astha prahar, and above all bhakti bhav, i.e., on arthvyavastha, ayurveda, and adhyatma.”

Not only Hindus but also people from other countries too, have to rely sometimes on the prasad system of the mandir. Steve Jobs of Apple has narrated how he used to walk seven miles every Sunday to the Hare Krishna mandir to have a proper meal in San Francisco. Singh further points out to the “Tirupati Laddu” that is famous across the world: “In their 2016-17 budget, the mandir board estimated the revenue from laddus sales was Rs 175 crore. Officials of the mandir board said that about two crore laddus were sold in 2015, and they expect the sales in 2016 to go up to three crore.”

In Shilpakala-based Arthvyavastha, the author describes several shilpakalas of various states, their impact on Arthvyavastha and the antiquity of that particular shilpakala. For instance, Andhra Pradesh’s Durgi stonecraft, Assam’s mask-making and bamboo craft, Bihar’s Mithila painting, Gujarat’s Sankheda furniture, Karnataka’s Mysore paintings, Madhya Pradesh’s Bhedaghat marble statues, Maharashtra’s Narayanpeth sarees, and so on. In one of the case studies, he underlines the fact that Bharat’s famous handicraft export was 2.1 billion USD in 2021-22.

These were just three facets of mandir-based arthvyavastha. After reading the remaining seven facets, an Indian will surely become a Hindu, as each of the facets encompasses facts, instances, and case studies that highlight the glory of Bharat systems, ethics, art, and samruddhutta (prosperity).

Readers will realize how deeply they have been ideologically colonized and had presumptions regarding the Hindu arthvyavastha system, and reconsider their demands that hospitals and schools be built instead of the mandir at Ayodhya. This book is a must-read for all devotees and especially for atheists.

Janhavi Naik

A former content writer-reporter for “The Narrative” and a contributing writer to the “Boho Sapiens,” Janhavi is pursuing a BA in Sociology.