How Can Temples End Poverty?

Reading Time: 7 minutes
Most of us as children used to wonder where the money we put in donation box goes. Then fantasized about how many chocolates, chips & kurkures we could buy from the money we saw in those boxes. Is it okay to donate that money somewhere else? Or the really important question we should ask ourselves is does God really want our money?
Can Temple Eradicate Poverty- The Uncharted Minds
Illustration by CR Sasikumar

What’s the purpose behind breaking coconut?

I was pondering this when I saw & fell in love.

With sculpted face and bold look, that grabbed my eyeballs and left me panting after lust.

When I described this to my dad he gave me a quizzical look and asked me that why do I need such an expensive watch?

You’re hardly 13.

‘Where did you see this?’

My answer was on the wrist of the pandit/pujari breaking coconut shell.

My dad looked doubtful & asked ‘Do you know the brand of the watch or how much it costs?’

When I answered in negative; He explained to me it was ‘Rolex’ and it’ll cost him his monthly salary.

Well, to me it wasn’t and I bugged him constantly. Sometimes he would answer with patience and eventually chided.

That’s how my pilgrimage to Shirdi Saibaba Temple went, ingrained in my brain.

Later as I grew up with much more sense, observation & questioning. This was the question that bothered me ‘How did that pujari manage to get such an expensive watch?’

This article is the result of those observations, insights, thinking & searching for that answer.  

I know it’s long but do read it , it’ll answer all those vague & trivial  yet significant questions you carried all these years .

At the end of this article, readers will understand why it is better to donate to regulated & supervised charities than to Temples.

‘Faith Triumphs over facts.’

Faith has been the north star of the man’s existence since the very beginning.

It has reassured all his anguishes by creating ‘Gods of Gaps’.

Temples, Mosque, The Church has reinforced this repeatedly.

Temples calm the turmoils within the mortal being through prayer & worship. And recently towards the COVID-19 pandemic for the welfare of the community.

Shirdi Saibaba temple with revenue of Rs 360 Crore/year has generously contributed Rs 51 Crore to fight COVID-19.

Image Source:

Similarly Hanuman Temple – Rs 1 Crore, Mahalaxmi Temple – Rs 2 Crores, Somnath Temple – Rs 1 Crore, Ambaji Temple – Rs1.1 Crore & so on.

I am sure when you google you will get the idea.

But why not donate regularly to causes like multidimensional poverty, malnutrition, environmental conservation, sustainable development?

India has one of the richest temples Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala bearing net worth of Rs 1,20,000 Crore and then on top of that is its yearly revenue.

Why doesn’t the trust of the concerned temple volunteer or aid for the cause?

Sharing identical spotlight is the Tirupati Balaji temple of Andhra Pradesh racking Rs 650 Crore per year additionally earning Rs 75 Crore from the ‘sacred laddus’.

Next comes up The Vaishno Devi Temple with 8-10 million visitors /year gaining significant revenue of 500 Crore/year has conferred Rs 26.4 lakh, 600 beds for quarantine facility & part of their salaries to relief fund.

Many local temples, which might not be famous, have also donated,and are feeding the hungry & providing relief to the needy.

Then you may ask me, ‘What’s the problem? They provided the money & facilities.’

The issue ladies & gentlemen is ‘Why now, when the water is up to to the necks and there’s no way out?’

I bet most of us have always wondered as children as to what happens to the money that our parents used to make us put in ‘Daan Patra or Hundi or Donation Box’.

We also fantasized about how many chocolates, kurkure & chips we could have bought from the money that we saw in those boxes.

Look No More!

Under the current tax rule, income from a property of charitable or religious trusts is tax-free with certain conditions.

15% income of trust is fully exempted without any rider. The remaining 85% is exempted too, but with certain conditions.

This 85% has to be spent within five years and only on charity-related activity, else it becomes taxable.

The 15 per cent flat exemption rule has become the loophole for accumulation of money. It was speculated by few experts that the government might tighten this in the new direct tax code, which was scheduled to be proposed in a task force report by the end of July 2019.

The report was submitted by the task force in August 2019 as a draft, although nothing has been made public yet. Trusts may face a lock-in period for this 15 per cent, instead of open-ended time for accumulation of income.

Expenses may not be allowed in cash withdrawal from the corpus is likely to be treated as income.

Some activities may be considered as outgoing expenses to curb misuse of tax exemptions and window dressing of accounts.

If 85 percent of the donation amount received by a charitable trust is expended for the purposes for which it was established, the entire 100 per cent of the donation is tax-free.

How the amount is to be used lies entirely on the discretion of the trust. The donation amount can also be split into numerous smaller denominations.

The funds donated by the donor to the trust may be for the benefit of the donor directly or indirectly, partly or fully.

The fund is registered in the name of the trust but it is used by the donor as per ‘under the table agreement’.

Although, this misuse can be in any other form of entity, be it a corporate, firm, association etc., what makes a trust different is the direct and indirect tax (income tax and GST) exemption, low corporate governance structure, non-transparent functioning and the source of income being donations which may be genuine or illicit and therefore prone to co-mingling of black money funds and tax evasion.

Tirumala Temple Hundi Nets Rs Three Crore on New Year Day

Recently, the Government of India, through Finance Bill (Budget) 2019 have proposed powers to the Principal Commissioner and Commissioner of Income Tax to cancel the Income Tax Registration of a trust or similar institution in case its activities are not genuine as to its purpose or it has not complied with the provisions of any other law applicable to it.

It therefore seems that the government recognizes the situation and has taken a step towards checking the menace.

All charitable trusts have to declare their investment plan along with ITR7 and other related forms to the tax department.

But data shows that the unspent money is growing faster than the number of returns filed.

In 2018, the finance ministry conducted a study of income tax returns of public trusts, which shows that the total returns being filed by trusts are decreasing, whereas the number of charitable trusts has been growing in the last three years.

Tax returns of trusts other than charity have also been declining. Trusts declare their income in two ways corpus and non-corpus.

Corpus money is exempted, but non-corpus has some conditions to avail exemptions.

Most donations, however, come under the non-corpus part.

Data of the financial year 2017 shows that less than two per cent trusts have received more than 60 percent donations via non-corpus.

‘The State governments collect 23.4% tax on the income of the temples including endowment administration tax (15%), audit fee (2%)and common good fund (2%). That apart, money is also taken away from the temples for the Archaka Welfare Fund and other purposes.’

Trusts have not been defined in the Income Tax Act, but it is a kind of an arrangement by which property is handed over to a person, to use and dispose of it for the benefit of another person.

India needs to spend $61.11 Billion a year, or 3.77% of the GDP to tackle poverty as per the report in 2016. About 44 Indians come out of extreme poverty every minute, one of the fastest rates of poverty reduction in the world, according to World Poverty Clock.

Children eat out of a bag of left over food

Let’s consider a scenario where for instance 5 Richest temples of Indiagive away 50% of either their net worth or annual revenue.

  1. 50% net worth of Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala – $10 Billion
  2. 50% revenue of Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh – $500 Million
  3. 50% revenue of Guruvayoor Temple, Kerala – $170 Million
  4. 50% net worth of Golden Temple, Punjab – $35 Million
  5. 50% revenue of Siddhivinayak Temple, Maharashtra – $32.5 Million

1 Billion – 1000 Million

10 Billion = 10,000 Million

By adding all these sum = $10,000M + $500M + $170M + $35M + $32.5M = 10,737.5 M And converting these 10,737.5 Million into Billions – $10.7375 Billion. Which is 17.6% of $61.11 Billion.

India is likely to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and less than 3% Indians will be poor by 2020, according to a recent study published in a Brookings blog.

Think about how much these donations can fasten the process.

It’s so much better to donate to charities, however small that amount is.


It’s less fortunate that people do.

Now readers might ask Why only Temples & not mosques or Churches?

In case of mosques the yearly revenue or net worth isn’t declared or it’s handled by the waqf boards.

Even if one searches Google, the answer comes up in respect of size not the financial assets.

When it comes to the church, they too are reluctant to change their system.

Now coming to the most important question of all




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Biswajeet Pradhan
Biswajeet Pradhan
3 years ago

Aaj se kundi main Paisa daalna band ?

Jessica Loren
Jessica Loren
3 years ago

Religions has been and will always be used by the people who want to reach their selfish goals by using an invisible entity such as God.

Jaishree Tanaya
Jaishree Tanaya
3 years ago

What a researched article?
And that Rolex story ?
Well done writer ?

Sailashree Parija
Sailashree Parija
3 years ago

Fantastic to know that Temples can cure at least one problem that our country is suffering from. If the money can eradicate poverty then it should be used.

Emily Kimball
Emily Kimball
3 years ago

God damn it! This is a gem of an article. Keep writing about these things that can actually be done.

Nicolas Libera
Nicolas Libera
3 years ago

People are scared from the almighty. They are scared so that’s why they follow these stupid rituals and customs.

Vaibhavi dalawai.
Vaibhavi dalawai.
3 years ago

Great thoughts… keep going?….. well expressed and explained….I believe, that’s how it should be done….god never asked your money or fake beleifs…just be a kind human being… that’s enough..?

1 year ago

Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing these details.

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