1. This appeal is by the plaintiff against the judgment and decree of the First Additional Subordinate Judge, Madurai dismissing the suit filed by him to set aside the order of the Deputy Commissioner for Religious Endowments Board in framing a scheme in respect of a religious trust created by one Chockalingam Pillai by a settlement deed dated 24-10-1924.
2. The brief facts which culminated in the filling of the suit by the appellant are these: There is a temple called Kalyanasundareswarar temple in Ayaniyapuram village. One Chockalingam Pillai, a native of the said village who was pious and religious man desired to make four idols of Sri Appear. Sundarar, Manickavasagar and Sambandamurthi and instal them in the said temple of Sri Kalyanasundareswarar. He requested his friend and relative, one Muthukaruppa Pillai of the same village who had taken interest in thiruppani work of the said temple, to make the aforesaid four idols and construct temples for them. The said Muthukaruppa Pillai made the four idols and completed the work as desired by Chockalinga Pillai. Thereafter, Chockalingam Pillai, in pursuance of the promise made by him to Muthukaruppa Pillai that he would make arrangements for the performance of daily pooja, neivedhyam, Shodasa upacharams etc, endowed and dedicated certain properties in favour of the said four idols by a deed of settlement dated 24-10-1924 (Ex. A.1). for the purpose of doing daily pooja and also Gurupooja every year in respect of the said idols and for similar purposes mentioned in the said deed. By the said deed, he appointed the aforesaid (1) Muthukaruppa Pillai, (2) Pichai alias Chockalingam Pillai (appellant) who is the grandson of his elder brother and (3) one Gopala Iyer, the son of the Manager of Kalyanasundareswarar devastanam as trustees for the management of the properties and administration of due performances of the various items of pooja and other things mentioned in the said deed.
3. Chockalingam Pillai died in 1926. Muthukaruppa Pillai who took over the management of the properties died in 1934. Gopala Iyer, another trustee appointed under the settlement deed died in 1937. His son, Sesha Iyer filed a suit, O. S. No. 19 of 1944 on the file of the District Munsif, Madurai taluk, against the appellant and third respondent, Netesa Pillai, son of Muthukaruppa Pillai, claiming to be the managing trustees, for recovery of possession of the trust properties from the appellant and for rendition of accounts. His claims as managing trustee as well as recovery of possession from the appellant were negatived in the suit and the decree was confirmed in appeal No. 3 of 1945 on the file the District Court, Madurai. However, the appellant was directed to deposit a sum of Rs. 2064 as the amount due by him in respect of the income from the trust properties. The said Sesha Iyer again filed a suit, O. S. No. 84 of 1951 on the file of the Sub Court, Madurai, against the appellant and the third respondent for their removal from the trusteeship and for recovery of the trust properties on the ground of mismanagement. During the pendency of the suit, Sesha Iyer died. His adopted son Seshayya who was a minor at that time was brought on record as his legal representative. The suit was ultimately compromised and a decree was passed in pursuance of the said compromise by the Sub Court, Madurai on 8-7-1954. Under the terms of the compromise decree, the properties endowed and dedicated to the four idols shall belong to the Chockalingam Pillai Trust, that the appellant shall be the managing trustee of the said Trust and that he should purchase nanja lands from out of the sum of Rs. 2,222 and odd available with him (appellant) belonging to the said Trust and if such lands could not be purchased, he should deposit the said sum in a bank in the name of Chockalingam Pillai Trust. The appellant did not purchase the properties as provided in the decree, but however, deposited the money in the bank in his own name.
4. As the appellant was not performing the charities according to the wishes of the founder and as per the provisions of the decree of compromise, the Executive Officer of Sri Kalyanasundareswarar temple (second respondent) by a notice dated 1-6-1956 called upon him to perform the pooja for the nalvar idols and to render accounts in respect of the trust properties. The appellant by him reply notice dated 12-6-1956 informed the Executive Officer that Muthukaruppa Pillai had not performed the duties undertaken by him regarding the building of the temple, installation of the images and performance of the consecration ceremonies and as such the Executive Officer of the temple was incompetent to call for accounts or demand performance of pooja for images which were not installed and deified.
5. The Deputy Commissioner for Religious Endowments of Tanjore, issued a notice to the appellant under date 4-9-1958 informing him that the trust had not been carried out property, that the had not accounted for the income from the properties and that, therefore, he proposed to frame a scheme. The appellant by his reply dated 29-10-1958 inter alia represented that no temple had been built for the images and the images had not been installed therein, that he was prepared to perform Kumbabhishekam if the images were installed in the temples to be erected and that he was having the amounts of the trust with him and had invested the same in fixed and current accounts with banks.
6. The Deputy Commissioner after due enquiry found that the trust was an endowment connected with the temple of Sri Kalyanasundareswarar and framed a scheme by order dated 20-2-1960 in O. P. No. 57 of 1959. Under the Scheme, the Deputy Commissioner directed the appointment of two new trustees besides the three hereditary trustees and also directed the Executive Officer of the said temple to take charge of the properties of the trust. On appeal by the appellant, the Commissioner for Religious Endowments confirmed the scheme framed by the Deputy Commissioner with a modification that the appointment of two other trustees was unnecessary, by his order dated 30-11-1960 in A. P. 51 of 1960.
7. The only point urged before us by Sri. M. S. Venkatarama Iyer, the learned counsel for the appellant, is that the Deputy Commissioner, Religious Endowments Board, had no power to frame a scheme under Section 64 of the Madras Act XXII of 1959 as the settlement deed by Chockalingam Pillai did not create an endowment in favour of an institution or temple and as such, the scheme framed by him should be set aside as ultra vires. This contention is mainly based on the ground that the nalvar idols (Sri Appar, Sundarar, Manickavachagar and Sambandamurthi) mentioned in the settlement deed were not installed and consecrated with due performance of ceremonies such as prana pratishta, Kumbhabhisheka etc. and that, therefore, the idols have not become the objects of public religious worship. It, therefore, becomes necessary to consider whether prana pratisthta or Kumbhabhisheka ceremonies of nalvar idols are essential requisites to bring it within the definition of 'temple' under Section 6, Clause (20) of the Hindu Religious Endowments At, 1858.
8. According to Hindu authorities and Agama Sastras, elaborate rites and ceremonies were introduced in regard to the building of temples and consecration and purification of idols. Man-made images in contrast to Swayambu images or self-revealed ones are installed and consecrated in a temple after due performance of long and elaborate ceremonies, of which prana pratishta or vivification ceremony is an essential one by which the eternal spirit is supposed to be infused into the idol. Kumbhabhishekam is performed by bathing and washing the image with sacred water purified by ceremonies including homa, offering of oblation to the sacred fire and prana pratishta. Then the deity begins to reside in the idol and becomes the object or religious worship. Thus, the performance of the ceremonies enjoined by Agama Sastras in respect of installation and consecration of idols would substantially indicate that they become objects of public religious worship, to which the properties can be endowed.
9. But we have to consider whether the ceremonies to be performed according to Hindu Sastras in installation and consecration of idols are essential requisites for a "temple" as defined under Clause (20) of Section 6 of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1959 (hereinafter called the "Act").
10-11. The following are the relevant provisions to be considered: Under Section 6 Clause (18) "religious institution" means a math, temple or specific endowment.
"Religious endowment" or "endowment" is defined in Section 6 clause (17) as follows:--
"Religious endowment' or 'endowment' means all property belonging to or given or endowed for the purpose of maths or temples, or given or endowed for the performance of any service or charity of a public nature connected therewith or of any other religious charity; and includes the institution concerned and also the premises thereof; but does not include gifts of property made as personal gifts to the archaka, service-holder or other employee of a religious institution;.........
Explanation 2; All property which belonged to, or was given or endowed for the support of a religious institution, or which was given or endowed for the performance of any service or charity of a public nature connected therewith of any other religious charity shall be deemed to be a 'religious endowment' or 'endowment' within the meaning of this definition, notwithstanding that be fore or after the date of the commencement of this Act, the religious institution has ceased to exist or ceased to be used as a place of religious worship or instruction or the service or charity has ceased to be performed;
Provided that this Explanation shall not be deemed to apply in respect of any property which vested in any person before the 30th September 1951, by the operation of the law of limitation."
12. Under Section 6, clause (20) 'temple' means a place by whatever designation known used as a place of public religious worship, and dedicated to, or for the benefit of, or used as of right by the Hindu community or any section thereof, as a place of public religious worship. The definition of 'temple' contemplates following conditions, namely "temple" means a place by whatever designation known used as a place of public religious worship (1) and dedicated to the Hindu community or any section thereof as a place of public religious worship; or (2) and dedicated for the benefit of the Hindu community or any section thereof as a place of public religious worship; or (3) and used as of right by the Hindu community or any section thereof as a place of public religious worship.
13. The definition of "temple" is so comprehensive as to include any place irrespective of installation of idols or a building or a tower, dwajasthambham or a stupi. For instance, there are institutions like Bhajana Madams where pictures of Gods of Hindu pantheon like Sri Rama and Sri Krishna are kept and where the public congregate daily for worship, sing Bhajana in praise of God and receive prasadams. Though there are no idols in such Bhajana madams, yet as they are places of public religious worship by Hindu community, they will come within the meaning of Section 6 clause (20) of the Act. It is a well known fact that in South India, in a place called Vadalur, Sri Ramalingaswamigal otherwise called Vallalar had founded an institution called Gnana Sabhai where no idol or no picture of any deity is kept. But a light is kept burning perpetually, indicating God as "Jyothi" or "light". daily pooja is performed and the Hindu community congregate in large numbers and offer their prayers and worship in the said Sabhai. Thus. it has become a place of public religious worship. Pictures and paintings of gods in some famous public temples are worshipped by the devotees who go to such temples for the worship of he presiding deity. We mention these things to show that it is not necessary in all cases that the presence of idols is an essential requisite to bring the place within the definition of 'temple' under the Act.
14. We have already observed that when idols of Hindu Gods are installed according to Hindu Sastras, prana pratishta is an essential ceremony. The question is, if the idols are installed in a place without due ceremonies being performed, will that cease to be a place of public religious worship within the meaning of "temple" under the Act? It is clear from the definition of 'temple' that if a place is used as place of public religious worship by the Hindu community or any section thereof, and dedicated as such, it becomes a temple and a religious institution. If the Hindu or a section of Hindus believe that by worship of such idols they acquire material and spiritual benefits and with that object worship such idols, they become objects of public religious worship. There are several places in South India where idols of little gods like Madan, Muthuveeran, Kathayee, Mariyayee, Ellamman etc., are installed and a particular section of he Hindu community congregate and worship with the belief that they get material benefits from such Gods. Some of these idols are installed even in open places. Rituals such as prana pratishta and kumbhabhishekam are not performed to such idols and yet, they would come within the definition of 'temple' under the Act. We see in the City of Madras a particular section of the Hindu community placing some idols and images in some public places and worshipping them. The Samayapuram temple in Tiruchirapalli District and the Mariamman temple in Tanjavur District where the idols of non-Aryan goddesses are kept, are worshipped by a large section of the Hindu community with the belief that their prayers are granted, and several valuable offerings are made by the devotees to those Goddesses. Many of those temples dedicated to non-Aryan Gods are of Dravidian origin based on the Aryan belief of image worship. Non-Aryan priests, namely, Poojaries perform poojas to such Gods and Goddesses. It does not appear that the aforesaid idols in the said temples have been installed and consecrated according to he rituals and ceremonies enjoined by Agama Sastras. They have become places of public religious worship by long user of the places as such by the Hindu community. We are, therefore, of the view that the installation and consecration of idols with ceremonies like Prana pratishta etc. prescribed by Hindu Sastras is not the sine qua non for public religious worship. In any event, it is not a legal requisite under the definition of 'temple' in the Act. However, we shall not be understood to be doubting the religious efficacy of the deity taking its abode I the idol by prana pratishta and other rituals as enjoined by Agama Sastras.
15. In Commrs. H. R. E. Board v. Narasimham, AIR 1939 Mad 134, Varadachariar, J. on behalf of the Division Bench constituting himself and Pandrang Row, J., in considering the definition of 'temple' as a place of public religious worship under the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1927, the present definition being substantially the same, made the following observation, with which we respectfully agree:--
'The Hindu Religious Endowments Act, no doubt speaks of a temple as a place of 'public religious worship'....................... The test is not whether it conforms to any particular school of Agama Sastras; We think that the question must be decided with reference to the view of the class of people who take part in the worship. If they believe in its religious efficacy, in the sense that by such worship they are making themselves the object of the bounty of some superhuman power, it must be regarded as 'religious worships'."
In that case, the facts disclosed that 66 stones representing the images of heroes who gave their lives as martyrs were placed and worshipped by the Hindu community and the institution came to be knows as 'Sri Virulu Alaya' a temple of heroes. There were no idols. But there was performance of Nity Neivedya Diparadhana, the offering of animal sacrifices and distribution of these offerings amongst the assembled audience. The rice distributed at the end of the ceremony was carried home by them and scattered in their fields in the belief that it would make the fields more productive. The facts of that case do not disclose that the 66 stones representing the heroes were installed according to Agama Sastras and that prana pratishta or Kumbabhishekam or samprokshana was performed to them. In those circumstances, the them. In those circumstances, the learned Judges held that that institution was a temple under the definition in the Act.
16. In Ramaswami Servai v. Board of Commissioners, H. R. E. Madras , Viswanatha Sastri. J. to whom the case was referred to, as there was difference of opinion between two learned Judges of the Court, held as follows:--
"Consecration according to the ceremonial rites prescribed by the Agama Sastras is not a legal requisite, though it is a sacredotal necessity according to the views of the orthodox. The test is not whether the installation of an idol and the mode of its worship conform to any particular school of Agama Sastras. If the public or that section of the public who go for worship consider that there is a Divine presence in a particular place and by offering worship at that place, they are likely to be the recipients of the bounty or blessings of God, then you have got, the essential features of a temple as defined in Section 9 C1. (12) of the Act,"
That was a case where no idols were installed and the temple was under construction and the founder dedicated the temple for public worship and endowed properties for the upkeep and maintenance of the temple.
17. Subsequently, a Division Bench of the Andhra High Court consisting of Satyanarayana Raju, J., as he then was and Venkatesan, J. in Venkataramana Murthi v. Sri Rama Mandiram, followed the aforesaid two decisions of the Madras High Court and held that the existence of an idol and a dhwajasthambham are not absolutely essential for making an institution a temple, and so long as the test of public religious worship at the place is satisfied, it answers the definition of a temple within the meaning of Section 6(17) of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951.
18. In the present case, we are concerned with the installation of idols of nalvars in the temple of Sri Kalyanasundareswarar at Avaniyapuram. The nalvaras are Saints of Saivism in South India. They propagated Saivite religion by having sung devotional songs in praise of Lord Siva, the images of which were installed in various places in Saivite temples in South India under various names. Those devotional songs were known as Thevaram and Thiruvachakam. They were believed to have lived during Chola and Pandia period in South India. The Saints like Alwars of Vaishnavite religion and nayanmars of Saivite religion propagated bhakti and that that was the only means to get liberation. They themselves sought for their liberation. These saints lived as human beings and sang in praise of the various presiding deities infused spiritually in the idols, installed and consecrated according to Hindu Agama Sastras. Though they were religious Saints of the highest order they cannot be equated with the deity infused in idols worshipped by the very same Saints. The Hindu authorities have prescribed various ceremonies to be performed to give efficacy to the idols of Hindu Puranic Gods. The Agama Sastras, as far as we could see, do not prescribe such ceremonies to be performed to the idols representing the Saints or other persons who lived dedicating their lives to the service and worship of Hindu Gods. In this context, it is significant to note the following statement from the Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trust, by Bijan Kumar Mukherjea--vide pages 152 and 154:--
"The Gods that are worshipped by the Hindus at the present day are mostly Pouranic Gods whose legends are given in the various Purans, though there are some divinities of Tantric origin............ Though the Purans are by no means uniform, the legends associated with the various, Gods are fairly well known and have been the basis of a considerable mass of poetic literature in later times. One cardinal principle underlying idol worship you would always bear in mind-and this has some bearing on the law relating to gift of property to idols-that whichever God the devotee might choose for purposes of worship and whatever image he might set up and consecrate with that object, the image represents the Supreme God and none else. There is no superiority or inferiority amongst the different Gods. Siva, Vishnu, Ganapati or Surya is extolled, each in its turn as the creator, preserver and supreme lord of the universe. The image simply gives a name and form to the formless God and the orthodox Hindu idea is that conception of for is only for the benefit of the worshipper and nothing else.
Along with the establishment of idol worship, in Hindu religion, elaborate rites and ceremonies, it seems, were introduced by Brahminical writers in regard to building of temples and consecration and purification of idols."
It, is, therefore, clear from this passage that the idols installed, consecrated and worshipped by the Hindu community represent the Supreme God and none else and only such idols alone are required to be consecrated and installed for worship according to the rites and ceremonies prescribed by Agama Sastras. The images of saints or devotees though revered and worshipped by the Hindu community, do not represent God or deity, the idols of which are installed and consecrated in temples. It, therefore appear that though the ceremonies enjoined by Agama Sastras are necessary for installation and consecration of idols representing God, such ceremonies are not the essential requisites for installation of images of Saints like nalvars. The installation of images of Nayanmars or Nalvars can be rightly called Bhaktha pradishta. It is a well known fact that people who go to temples for religious worship of presiding deities also worship the other images kept in the said temples and the images of Nalvars are of the latter category.
19. It may be, as pointed out by learned counsel Mr. M. S. Venkatarama Iyer, that in some places even the idols of Nayanmars like those nalvars might have been installed and consecrated with certain ceremonies. For instance, the image of Appar, one of the nalvars. was installed and consecrated recently at Thiruvamur, the birth place of the said saint, by and at the instance of Dharmapuram Adheenam, a well known Saivite Mutt in south India, after performing certain ceremonies followed in cases of installation and consecration of idols representing God. This is done more for the reason that certain section of the Hindu community believe that religious efficacy could be obtained even in respect of images of Saints, by installing and consecrating them following the traditions of performance of certain ceremonies prescribed for installation and consecration of idols representing God and not for the reason that such ceremonies to such images are enjoined by Agama Sastras. We are, therefore, of the view that the performance of ceremonies such as prana
pratishta-kumbabhishekam etc., are not essential for the installation of the nalvar idols and if such idols had been worshipped by the public as of right without let or hindrance, that would be sufficient to bring the place where the idols are kept within the meaning a of 'temple' under the Act. An endowment can be created by making a dedication pure and simple without any provision for performance of ceremonies.
20. The Supreme Court in Deoki Nandan v. Murlidhar, has held as follows:--
"It is settled law that an endowment can validly be created in favour of an idol or temple without the performance of any particular ceremonies. provided the settlor has clearly and unambiguously expressed his intention in that behalf. Where it is proved that ceremonies were performed, that would be valuable evidence of endowment, but absence of such proof would not be conclusive against it." At p. 767 (of SCR) = (at p. 140 of AIR), it was further held.
"..................... proof of user by the public without interference would be cogent evidence that the dedication was in favour of the public."
In the present case, a careful examination of Ex. A.1 would show that there is no specific provisions that the dedication is to be done by due performance of ceremonies;' but on the other hand, the dedication is made pure and simple for worship of the nalvars by the Hindu community. The preamble to Ex. A.1 states that the settlor Chockalingam Pillai was about 75 years of age, that he was sick and ailing, that he had no heirs and that, therefore, he was making a dedication of the properties. the deed later states that Muthukaruppa Pillai, an intimate friend and relative of his was doing for about 4 or 5 years several Thiruppanis of Sri Kalyanasundaraswamigal devastanam and made idols of Gods such as Vinayaka for installing them in the aforesaid place and was making arrangements for the performance of Kumbabhishekam and that he asked the aforesaid Muthukaruppa Pillai, on account of his desire for getting salvation to meet the expenses of making the four idols of Sri Appar, Sundarar, Manickavachagar and Sambandamurthi and for constructing temples for them, and he having acceded to his request, had completed the aforesaid entire works and, as per his longstanding wish and as per the promise, he made to the aforesaid Muthukaruppa Pillai for the contrivance of the performance of daily pooja in the name of the aforesaid Swamigal permanently, the pooja, neivedhanam and Shodasa Upacharams shall be performed within the limit of Rs. five separately for each idol and Guru pooja shall be performed once in a year within the limits of Rs. ten. The deed further provides the details for the performance of the charities and unequivocally vocally mentions that the entire properties mentioned in the deed were dedicated for the charities mentioned in the said deed and for that purpose, the trustees mentioned in the deed were appointed. By the said deed. Chockalinga Pillai appointed (1) Muthukaruppa Pillai who completed the work as desired by him. (2) Pichai alias Chockalingam Pillai the plaintiff herein and the grandson of his elder brother; and (3) one Gopala Iyer, a stranger, as trustees. The recitals in the deed, as pointed out earlier indicate that Muthukaruppa Pillai completed the work in respect of making of idols and installing them in a temple as desired by Chockalingam, that according to the promise made by Chockalingam, he dedicated all his properties for the performance of daily puja, neivedyam, Shodas upacharams, gurupooja etc., and that to carry out the trust created by him, he appointed three persons at the first instance, one of them being a stranger belonging to a different community. The settlor has not expressly stated that the dedication must be done by performance of any particular ceremony. It is true that kumbabhishekam was not performed. But the deed does not provide for such kumbabhiskekam of the four idols. the worship of four idols installed in the temple of Sri Kalyanasundareswarar, which admittedly is a place of public religious worship by the Hindu community, and the daily pooja to such idols are clearly indicated in Ex. A.1 itself. It is contended by the plaintiff that there was no installation of idols of Nalvars; nor was there daily pooja, that the idols were not worshipped by the idols were not worshipped by the Hind community and that they were kept in a store room. It was, therefore, contended that there was no public religious worship in respect of the four idols, to bring it within the definition of "temple." We have already mentioned that in Ex. A.1 itself it was stated that the entire work in respect of the installation of idols was completed and that, therefore, the dedication of properties was made in favour of idols for the due performance of pooja, neivedyam etc. Even it there is a doubt from the recitals in Ex. A.1, that the installation of idols was completed and that, therefore, the dedication of properties was made in favour of idols for the due performance of pooja, neivedyam etc. Even if there is a doubt from the recitals in Ex. A.1, that the installation of the idols was not completed at the time of dedication, it is clear from the evidence of D.W. 1, Somasundara Sastrigal, the Archaka of Sri Kalyanasundareswarar temple that the nalvar idols were installed even before 1953.
21-22. We shall now refer to the oral evidence of witnesses examined in the case.
23. (After discussion of evidence his Lordship proceeded:). The substance of the evidence of these witnesses would show that the idols of Nalvars were installed in the temple and daily poojas were being done to them and the public worship those idols and the place where the idols were installed is used by the public as of right for religious worship.