Puri Shankaracharya Happy with Move to Keep Govardhan Math out of Endowment Act, Seeks Total Autonomy


Bhubaneswar: Hours after the Odisha government decided to exclude Govardhan Math, the oldest monastery in Puri and one of the four cardinal Hindu centres in the country, from the purview of the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowment Act, 1951, its shankaracharya said the government should consider granting it total autonomy.

“If the state government’s law department implements the step it has announced, it is a matter of happiness. But the government should also take into consideration the fact that Govardhan Math is also under the Jagannath Act,” said Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth, on Tuesday.

The Naveen Patnaik-led state government, which faced criticism for demolishing a number of ancient Hindu monasteries around the 12th Century Jagannath temple in Puri last month, decided to exclude the math from the purview of the religious endowments law.

But the monastery, founded in the 8th Century by Hindu saint Adi Shankaracharya, continues to be under the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1955, which regulates the management system of Jagannath temple’s affairs and its properties.

“There is a need to consider how much impact the Jagannath Act will keep having on the math despite it being freed from under the Endowments Act,” said Saraswati, who has for long been demanding the end of all state control of temples and maths, arguing that such control leads to their mismanagement and a decline of Hindu religion.

Unlike the other three cardinal Hindu monasteries (Dwarka, Shringeri and Joshimath) established by the Adi Shankaracharya in India, the Govardhan Maths was placed under the endowment law.

The Odisha government’s decision to remove the math from under the law came in the wake of massive criticism to the demolition of three ancient Vaishnavite monasteries in Puri long associated with the Jagannath temple — the 700-year-old Emar Math, 300-year-old Languli Math, also called Nanguli Math, and 521-year-old Bada Akhada Math.

Saraswati had voiced his protest against the demolition drive. Hearing a petition filed by the heads of these maths, the Supreme Court had chided the state government earlier this month, asking it to ensure their protection and discuss with the religious leaders before deciding to demolish any such structure.

Urging the state government to appoint a “serious and sensible” person to discuss with him the issues related to the end of the Endowments Act and the continuance of the Jagannath Temple Act, Saraswati said, “I shall not make any such suggestion that the state government cannot execute even if it wants to. I shall also not give any suggestion that would amount to usurping anyone’s properties. The government should make all efforts to secure the existence and ideals of this math, which the government is capable of”.

“Odisha should be proud of the fact that the Adi Shankaracharya had set up one of the four main maths (of Hinduism) in Purushottam Kshetra (Puri) in Odisha,” said the seer, who had earlier asked the state government to help free large chunks of Govardhan Math’s land from encroachments.

(With inputs from Akshaya Mishra)