Social Wealth beyond Personal Property

Dr. Trilok Kumar Jain
Published on: 14th March 2015
It has become a fashion these days to criticize temples, traditions and old practices. Youth makes a mockery of all those who respect old Indian heritage and culture. For them India is a country of “blind followers” and there is nothing to learn from these. While travelling through a train, I received an opinion from a young energetic boy that all these temples must be auctioned and their wealth should be used for the cause of removing poverty. I appreciated his concern for the nation, but I also told him that many of these temples were actually designed as a contribution to good thought building in the nation and they have legacies beyond comparison. I shared with him the story of an old temple, which is as below.

In old times, living conditions were very tough in Western Rajasthan. Substantial (about 90%) population was dependent on agriculture, animal husbandry and other related vocations. However, being dependent on monsoon, rains would be the most unpredictable thing. Droughts would be the most common happenings. When there was draught, the entire population would face hardships. We cannot imagine about the hardships which those people witnessed in earlier times.

People had to adopt different strategies for their survival. Since water was the scarcest commodity, people would use water very carefully and prepare every strategy to conserve and protect water. Rich persons would do something to help poor persons. They would try to give employment to poor people during draughts and other such occasions. King would start construction work and other such work so that more and more people are able to earn something and they are able to survive the tough times. It is better to study those practices and learn from them rather than to look at them as mere monuments.

A temple called Bhanda Shah Temple was constructed in 47 years. In modern times, this can be done in just a few months. But giving employment to people in difficult times across 47 years itself is a great contribution. When the temple was constructed, prior to that four giant Kunds (a Kund a huge water storage tank for rain water harvesting, it was popular in western Rajasthan in old times) were constructed beneath the temple to store rain-water.
Social Wealth beyond Personal Property
A ghee trader (ghee is refined butter and it is very popular in India, particularly in Western Rajasthan) Mr. Bhanda Shah decided to donate his wealth for social cause and thought of constructing a temple as at that time this was the only way of helping the society (fifteenth century). In 1467, when his Chalua (the architect of the temple was called Chalua in old Indian practices) came to meet him, he found Mr. Bhanda Shah arranging his pots of Ghee. Suddenly a drop of ghee fell on the ground. Mr. Bhanda Shah immediately bowed on the ground to collect back that drop of ghee and ensured that not even a tiny fragment was left on the ground. The Chalua was wondering how that miserly-looking fellow would construct a huge seven storey temple (which would be the largest temple of the entire region at that time). Due to this incident, he had formed a negative opinion of Mr. Bhanda Shah. He came the next day and told Mr. Shah that due to water shortage, temple cannot be constructed. Only Ghee would be used in construction of Temple. He thought that the temple construction would be abandoned. To his surprise, Mr. Bhanda donated all his Ghee for the construction of temple. After some time he again visited Mr. Shah and asked “You care for a drop of Ghee, but you donated 44 barrel of Ghee for construction of temple, I could not understand you.” Mr. Shah said in reply, “A drop on ground would invite a large number of ants and insects, who would then die as a result; so I collected that drop of ghee and cleaned the ground. But for a good social cause, I am prepared to donate my entire wealth.
Mr. Shah later died and the incomplete temple was then constructed by his daughter. Instead of seven storey temple, it was limited to only three storey temple. The huge water reservoirs helped people by providing pure drinking water for so many years. A large number of artists (including painters and other artisans) got jobs in preparing this temple and in this way a temple became great by supporting the local artists and the local craft. Every morning a large number of people would visit temple to have a good beginning of a day, and in this way the temple connected hundreds of family to a thought process and a good system where people adopted morning walk, meditation and discourse on good ideas. The purpose of Mr. Bhanda Shah was accomplished. The rain-water collected in the four Kunds was used as a public property and it was available to everyone in difficult times. Temples being sacred places, were constructed in such a way that the property benefitted the public at large. At that time, this was the only way to help the people at large.
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