Indians are highly religious and go to any lengths to visit as many temples as possible. In fact temples are a great factor in promoting tourism. Word of mouth publicity and immense faith in the temple gods and goddesses  has made many Indian temples immensely rich. Their annual collections keep rising every year. Many temples utilize these funds to further education, health and many other causes for the benefit of especially poor sections of the society.

Let us make ourselves aware about five of India's richest temples.

1. Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala

This temple is not only the richest in India but is also the richest in the world. The temple is located in Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala. It shot into fame when treasures where discovered in its five underground cellars. The estimated wealth of these secret treasures is more than Rs 1,20,000 crore or around $20 billion. This value does not include the antique value of the hundreds of gold, silver, diamonds and other forms jewellery. More of it later.

The principal deity of the temple is Lord Vishnu, also known as Anantha Padmanabhaswamy. The temple is built in the Dravidian style and is said to be a replica of a similar temple in Kanyakumari. The origins of the temple are lost in antiquity. It is however mentioned in ancient Tamil literature during the 6th -9th centuries AD and is belonging to the Vaishnava sect of Hinduism. A major renovation of the temple was carried out in 1730 AD by thethen  King Marthanda Varma.

In an unusual gesture the king, on January 17,1750, surrendered his kingdom of Travancore to the temple deity Padmnabhaswamy and promised that his descendants would act as agents of the deity and they would serve the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa. All territorial acquisitions were to be handed over to the deity.

In the main temple, Padmanabha is reclining on the serpent Anantha or Adi Shesha. By the side of Vishnu are his consorts, Sridevi the Goddess of Prosperity and Bhoodevi the Goddess of Earth. Also a Shiva Lingam and Brahma are near to Vishnu. The deity is made out of 12,000 saligrams (small holy stones representing Vishnu) brought from Gandaki River in Nepal.

The Gopuram of the temple exists from 1566, is 100 foot long and a seven tier structure. The temple is situated by the side of a pond and its corridor has 365 carved pillars made from granite. The temple celebrates the annual Navratri festival with great fervor. Every six years the festival of laksh deepam ie lighting of one lakh oil lamps after 56 days of recital of the vedas, is celebrated with great fanfare. It is going to be celebrated in 2014.

The temple has six vaults designated as alphabetically from A to F. The temple and its assets including all offerings and treasures belonged to Lord Padmanabhaswamy and are controlled by a trust run by the Royal family. It was widely believed that these vaults contain treasures of immense value. Responding to a litigation, the Kerala High Court ordered the vaults to be opened. All vaults except B have been opened. The treasures especially from vault A are mind boggling in their beauty, size,variety and value. The value of these treasures is valued at $20 billion. The contents of vault B were evaluated in 1931 and their value was placed at Rs 12,000 crore. This value is estimated to have gone up to anywhere around Rs 50 trillion or $1 trillion. in both case the antique value is additional.

These mind boggling value figures have conferred on  the Padmanabha temple the title of the world's richest temple. It is worth visiting this ancient temple of Hinduism in Kerala to have a feel of visiting the richest temple in the world.

2. Tirumala Tirupati Venkateswara Temple, Andra Pradesh:

The Tirupati Balaji Temple as it is popularly known is India's most visited temple. Every day more than 50,000 devotees visit it and donate around Rs 650 crore every year. The most famous prasad of the temple is the laddu and nearly 1,50,000 laddus are prepared every day  for sale and distribution to the pilgrims, fetching the temple an annual income of above Rs 1 crore annually.

The ancient temple is situated at an elevation of 853 meters above sea level in Tirupati, in Chitoor District of Andhra Pradesh and covers an area of 27 square kilometers. There are seven peaks  in this area and and it is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills. Tiru means holy and mala means mountain in Tamil and thus it is known as Tirumala or the Holy mountains. The main temple is situated on the seventh peak.

The main deity of the temple is Lord Venkateswara an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. His other names are Balaji, Govinda and Srinivasa. The temple has been in existence from 9th century on wards and all the kings of that era and afterwards have been its devotees and competed in giving high value offerings. However the exact period in which the temple was made is not known. In fact legend states that the temple came into existence on its own. There are mention of a temple at the site in Sangam poetry (500 BC). The temple is at a distance of about 20 kms from the town of Tirupati.

The Garbhagruha is where the majestic idol of Lord Venkateswara is placed, directly beneath the monumental tower known as vimanam. The idol wears a gold crown, with a large emerald embedded on its front. The main temple and other smaller temples are built in the Dravidian style of architecture.

Many of the pilgrims offer their hair of the head as an offering to the god. nearly a ton of hair is collected daily and is auctioned a few times a year to international buyers. After daily collection in cash, offerings the sale of hair is the second largest income generator for the temple fetching over $6 million. Another popular activity is the Thulabharam, in which offerings like sugar, banana,  gold,coins etc are made equal to one's body weight.

Till the riches of Padmanabha Temple were not known Tirupat Balaji temple, Tirupati temple was the richest in India, now it is the second richest. The daily flow of pilgrims can vary between 50,000 to 1,00,000 per day. On special days the numbers can cross 5.00,000 per day, easily making it the most visited holy place in the world. The temple complex is managed by the Tirumala Tirupati Devsthanams or TTD an independent trust. It employs over 16,000 employees to mange the dozen temples and carry out other allied activities. Its senior officers are drawn from the IAS cadre of the government. TTD runs a number of professional colleges, degree colleges, junior colleges, higher and elementary schools mostly in and around Tirupati.

The temple has over 3,000 kg of gold and Rs 1,000 crore in various bank accounts. The annual income is Rs 650-700 crore per year. Last year on Ram Navmi day, it collected the highest collection of Rs 5.73 crore in a single day.

Tirupati temple holds a very respectable place in the hearts of Hindus who visit it with great expectations and when fulfilled or in anticipation,are liberal with their donations in cash and kind, making it one of the richest temples in the world. 

3. Saibaba Temple,Shirdi,Maharashtra:

SaiBaba was a saint about whose early life before coming to Shirdi nothing is known. Was he a Hindu, Muslim or of any other religion is not known. So people of all faiths visit the temple where he is now worshiped as a deity as a mark of devotion. The temple was built in 1922 at Shirdi about 300 kms from Mumbai in Maharashtra State. It is a temple of very recent origin and is made in memory of a saint whom the devotees saw and interacted with. It has attained a cult status and ever increasing number of devotees visit is every year.

The temple is very simple and is spread only on 200 sq. meters area. As Sai Baba had lived in the area where a small temple existed and today a bigger temple complex has come up, it is interwoven with events of his life. The Baba passed away on October 15, 1918, on Vijyadasmi day for Hindus and the month of Ramzan for the Muslims. Baba was buried in a tomb over which in 1954 the statue of Baba sitting on a throne was placed. This famous and very  beautiful statue is found very appealing by the devotees and attracts devotees from all over the world.

The statue is treated like a living one and all rituals like morning bath, breakfast, lunch, dinner, four changes of clothing are made every day. The effort is to create an atmosphere that the Baba has not left this world and is present in the temple for his devotees. This adds to the mystique of the Baba and motivates his devotees.

The worship at the temple starts at 4 am in the morning and goes on till 11.15 pm in the night. Ram Navmi is one of the major festivals celebrated in the temple.

The temple has nearly Rs 50 crore of jewellery and fixed deposits worth Rs 628 crore.In 2013 it received donations worth Rs 206 crore.

4. Siddhivinayak, Mumbai:

This Mumbai located temple was built in November 19, 1801 at Prabhadevi, Dadar and is dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Ganesha. It is spread on a 2,550 sq meter area. The dome over the Ganesha is coated with 3.7 kilos of gold donated by a Kolkatta based businessman. The idol of Ganesha is carved out of a single black stone

The electricity used in the temple is generated through solar energy cells installed in the temple itself.

The temple is visited by 50,000 to 2,00,000 devotees everyday.The temple was built by Laxman Patil and was funded by a woman named Deubai Patil, who was childless and hoped that the Lord would grant children to other barren women.

The temple gained fame because of visits by high profile politicians and Bollywood stars. After 1975, the number of devotees visiting the temple rose considerably. The temple is open from 5.30 am to 10.00 pm daily.

In its premises there is also has a smaller temple devoted to Lord Hanuman whose idol was found while the road around the temple was being widened in early 1950's.

It has an annual income of Rs 40 crore and has fixed deposits worth Rs 144 crore, 110 kgs gold and 1,100 kgs of silver as per 2014 media report.

5. Vaishno Devi Mandir:

This famous shrine is dedicated to Mother Goddess or Durga or Shakti and is located in the Trikutta Mountains in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The temple is at a height of 5,300 feet, about 12 kms from the town of  Katra, which itself is around 45 kms from the well connected by rail, road and air, Jammu city. It is one of the oldest shrines in India.

More than 10 million pilgrims visit the shrine every year. Only Tirupati Temple gets more visitors.

Vaishno Devi Mandir is considered to be one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in the country. The mandir is in fact a cave around which is built the Holy Bhawan in which Mata Vaishnavi is in the form of a five and a half foot tall rock with three heads known as Pindies, representing Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Kali. The three are in turn represent the creative, preservative and destructive aspects of Shakti.  It is a darshan of this statue that pilgrims climb up the mountain for. The Holy cave is 98 feet long. 

There are other attractions inside the Bhawan like  a Shivling in a cave, and other darshans like Maa Durga, Lord Shiv, Shri Ram, Lord Hanuman and others.

One of the main attractions of visiting the Holy cave is the climb from Katra and then the descent back after the darshan. Devotees are singing in groups and the surrounding scenery is very enjoyable. The road is very clean and well maintained. There is a controlled system of allowing entry into the narrow cave, to avoid overcrowding. Helicopter and pony services are also available.

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine Board manages the governance and administration of the shrine and have done a good job compared to an earlier Trust.

it has an annual income of around Rs 500 crore and is supposed to be the fifth richest in India. 

One must visit Vaishno Devi for both holy reasons and also for an adventure in the mountains.

From the above it can be seen that the five temples are well managed and devotees throng to them in millions. The offerings they make to the Gods makes the temples rich year after year. These funds should be used for the good of the society and that will be their best use and also the devotees will feel happy. 

(Image from Wikimedia)

Like it on Facebook, Tweet it or share this article on other bookmarking websites.