TNHRCE History, Mission, Administration, Temples List

The Tolkappiyam classifies the deities of the land as follows: “Mayon, the head of the forest; Seyon, the head of Maivara the world; Vendan, the head of Thembunal the world; Varuna, the head of Perumanal the world…”

This led to the establishment of a department aimed at coordinating temple administration to safeguard these temples and their cultural legacies, which are cherished as traditional links and historical treasures of our ancestors. The governance of Tamil Nadu’s temples has been in the hands of the government since the era of the East India Company.

Over the years, vast tracts of land and property have been associated with Hindu temples. Complaints of mismanagement and social issues in their administration date back to the time of the East India Company’s rule in India. These grievances were voiced to the ruling kings and the East India Company administration.

In response, the Madras Endowment and Inheritance Regulation Act of 1817 was enacted. This law aimed to ensure the proper utilization of funds, including donations to temples, and to prevent any misuse for personal gain. The authority for oversight was granted to the Board of Revenue at that time. Subsequently, thousands of temples were brought directly under government administration.

In 1858, control over India shifted from the East India Company to the British Government. To gain the trust of the Indian populace and reduce resentment, the British government made a commitment not to interfere in religious matters. Those already in possession of temples and their assets began to manage them without external interference.

Despite numerous complaints, the British government refrained from getting deeply involved in the intricate Indian social structure and the intertwined temple affairs. Public concerns about mismanagement and encroachment on temple properties persisted.

In 1920, King Panagal assumed the role of Chief Minister and endeavoured to bring all temples in the Madras province under government supervision. To achieve this, he proposed the Hindu Welfare Act in 1922, followed by the Hindu Welfare Bill in 1925. With the approval of Viceroy Irvine, the Hindu Religious Charities Board was established in 1927. This empowered the Board to oversee temple management and appoint officers to temples where administration was lacking.

In 1940, a special officer was appointed to reform the Hindu Community Charities Board.

In 1942, a non-official committee headed by a retired Madras High Court judge recommended that the government take charge of managing Hindu Religious and Charitable Institutions, replacing the existing Board. This recommendation led to the enactment of the Hindu Religious Endowments Act in 1951, with various legal amendments introduced. The government assumed control of Hindu Religious Charitable Institutions. The Act underwent extensive amendments, and the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 22 of 1959, came into effect on January 1, 1960. Consequently, a dedicated government department was established to oversee Hindu temples.