x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Souvenirs plan for Indian temple treasures

Half of the gold and silver in the treasuries of 20 government-controlled Hindi temples could be made into mementoes.

SHIMLA // The state of Himachal Pradesh is set to allow temple trusts to turn tonnes of the gold and silver in their coffers into mementoes.

The precious metals in the treasuries of 20 government-controlled Hindu temples would be used for making souvenirs for sale, said Rakesh Kanwar, director of the Language Art and Culture Department. The practice is already in place at the Vaishno Devi shrine in Kashmir.

"But the conversion of the metals into souvenirs would be done only after its purification," said Mr Kanwar.

The government is set to sign an agreement with the public sector Mines and Minerals Trading Corp (MMTC), he said.

"An MMTC team will be in Shimla next week to finalise the nitty-gritty before signing the agreement."

In addition to souvenirs, gold coins weighing between two and 20 grams and silver coins, from 20 to 200 grams, would be minted.

The coins and the mementoes would have inscriptions of the respective temple deities. According to government estimates, more than 300 kilograms of gold and 22,500kg of silver belong to the 20 temples.

The government last year amended the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1984, that allowed the conversion of 50 per cent of the metal reserves in temples into mementoes.

An official said the conversion would help temples part with loads of gold and silver they have had for decades and also reduce pilferage.

"Keeping the precious metal in safe custody is a costly affair. The income from the sale of coins and mementoes will be used for temple development and social activities," said Prem Prasad Pandit, state temple administrator.

The hill state, also known as the "Land of the Gods", has 28 Hindu temples. The shrine of Mata Chintpurni in Una district is the richest.

Other rich temple trusts include those of Naina Devi in Bilaspur, Baba Balak Nath in Hamirpur, Jwalaji, Chamunda Devi and Brajeshwari Devi in Kangra, and Bhimakali and Hateshwari in Shimla.

According to the government proposal, only 50 per cent of the gold and silver in a temple would be converted into coins and mementoes.

"Of the remaining 50 per cent, 10 per cent is to be kept with the temple trust, 20 per cent will be invested in gold bonds of the State Bank of India and the remaining will be used to adorn the deities," said an official.