India is the land of temples. They serve as an institution to perform wide range of services and activities like spiritual fulfilment of the people, dharmic discourses, arts, music, dance, economy, research studies on ancient scriptures, tourism, a number of social and cultural functions to integrate the society. Temples look after the free food programs, education institutions, hospitals, service activities and also provide support in times of difficulties in
society (Sanyal, 2017 & Ramesh, 2020).
The impact of India’s temples on the country’s economy is undeniable. Since the Harappan civilization, which established the basis for urbanisation, India has been culturally endowed with urban centres. There were primarily three causes of India’s urbanisation in subsequent centuries which include 1) towns run by temple, 2) managing authority related to administration work and 3) a city with significant commercial or port activity. Temple towns are an extremely significant kind of urbanisation that fall under this category. Thanjavur, Kanchipuram, and Madurai in Tamil Nadu; Somnath in Gujarat; and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh are only a few instances of such cities.
Temples have historically obtained lavish donations from kings, resulting in vast stores of land, jewels, and monetary resources. Temples have grown as strong economic entities, giving direct and indirect employment and livelihood to the people via temple networks. The significant gifts of a well-to-do portion of society were poured for the betterment of society, and temples served as a means of distributing them. (Talbot, 1991& Ramesh, 2020).
According to the NSSO survey, the temple economy is estimated to be worth Rs 3.02 lakh crore, or approximately Rupees 40 billion, or 2.32 percent of GDP. The Central government’s revenue for fiscal year 2022-23 is Rs 19,34,706 crore, while merely six temples collected Rs 24,000 crore in currency. Others include Tirumala Tirupati at Rs 3023 crores, the temple of Vaishno Devi at Rs 2000 crores, Ambaji at Rs 4134 crores (Rs 5163 crores in 2019-20),
Dwarkadhish at Rs 1172 crores, Somnath at Rs 1205 crores, and the Golden Temple at Rs 663 crores. The Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, the Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura, the Banke Bihar Mandir in Vrindavan, the Padmanabha mandir, the Siddhivinayak mandir, and the Kashi Vishvanath mandir all generate comparable amounts of revenue. Donations in the form of gold at various temples range from 130 kilogrammes at Tirupati to 380 kilogrammes at Shirdi(Shivaji S, 2022).
Historically temples played a significant role in the all-round development of human beings. From time immemorial, temples have been playing a significant role at various stages with different stake holders in prospering the economy of the present time such as producers (agriculture), consumers (puja products and services), investors (agriculture, permanent structures, educational and health institutions, Goshalas known as Cow Shelters) and distributors (prasadams and free food distribution). Numerous people, including priests, artists, musicians, dancers, flower sellers, vendors of puja materials, kitchen staff, event organisers, astrologers, temple management officials, temple staff, hoteliers, taxi drivers, and members of other castes, etc., have found direct or indirect support in the temple complex and temple network economy. Many small towns in Telangana like Vemulawada, Basara, Yadadri, Badrachalam, Ramappa, Kaleshwaram, Dharmapuri, Chilukuru, etc. are known as temple towns. Economic activities developed around these temples vary significantly through templebased products business and gift items. In addition, temples and temple trusts provide job opportunities via their ancillary operations and social activities, such as the provision of free hospitals and health services, as well as institutions of learning for the well-being of
Temples act as major consumers of goods and services. Financial resources will be pumped back into the local community (Trouillet, 2017). Temples encouraged agriculture, cultivation, and irrigation historically. They possessed tanks, wells, and irrigation systems that boosted local agriculture. According to Tamil Nadu inscriptions, temples were given nearby villages and developed them to enhance agriculture and farming. (Kavitha, 2017). Temples invested given riches in the agricultural sector and the linked economy across the Vijayanagar kingdom.
Apart from this, temple also played the role of financial institutions (Stein, 1961). Tourism and hospitality are highly dependent on temples. Due to their religious and cultural importance, temples draw both pilgrims and spiritual tourists. They also draw heritage enthusiasts due to their beautiful architecture and historical relevance.
The Indian economy has always been significantly influenced by temples. They have acted as both spiritual and religious centres and economic hubs, boosting local economies via a variety of ventures that include the following:
1. Offers and donations: Devotees in India make significant offers and donations to temples, which adds to their financial resources. These gifts may be in the form of money, jewellery, food, and other valuables. Donations are frequently utilised to fund religious and charitable endeavours as well as the upkeep and expansion of the temple’s physical facilities.
2. Pilgrimage tourism: There are several temples in India that draw a lot of visitors and devotees. This increase in tourists generates revenue for the provision of lodging, transportation, food services, and the selling of religious artefacts and trinkets. Due to the existence of temples and the resulting tourist, local businesses frequently flourish.
3. Temple festivals: Throughout the year, temples host a number of religious celebrations and festivals. A large number of devotees attend these events, which helps the local economy. During festivals, there is a surge in pilgrims, which raises the demand for goods and services in the neighbourhood.
4. Temple administration and employment: Priests, administrators, caretakers, and support staff are all needed for temples to run on a daily basis. By giving people connected to temple administration work and income, these employment opportunities boost the local economy.
5. Charitable initiatives: Many temples in India conduct educational institutions, hospitals, and other social programmes in addition to giving free meals (prasad) to worshippers. By addressing social needs, these programmes not only benefit the neighbourhood but also the larger economy.