ISO certification for temples – this has been in news for sometime. Most of us are unsure of what this means or whether this would run counter to the sanctity of the temple. A visit to Parthasarathy
Generally people say that ISO certification helps in maintaining the temple clean. Keeping the temple clean is everyone’s duty - from the temple staff to the devotees who throng the temple. We don’t need an ISO certification for that. But when you enter the garbhagraha of the deities in the Parthasarathy temple, you get the answer. All the sannidhis have been air conditioned!! The AC is fixed in the artha mantapa - too close to the garbha gruha in such a way that the deity also is receiving the cool air. In small sannidhis like Andal, one can sense the dryness around the deity
Recall my article on why the garbha gruha must be kept wet and how the cooling must have to be natural (1). The change in the atmosphere in the garbha graha will destroy the very purpose for which the temple exists. The deity does not need the AC. Fixing the AC in the garbha gruha can have only one reason – that of taking care of the customer comforts! When you treat the devotee as a customer, the ISO certification gets some meaning or relevance.
Look at what the ISO 9000 certification, the temple administration has applied for - says:-
From www.iso.org we get the information that the ISO 9000 family addresses 4 issues of "Quality management".
· the customer's quality requirements, and
· applicable regulatory requirements, while aiming to
· enhance customer satisfaction, and
· achieve continual improvement of its performance in pursuit of these objectives
The customer is the focus in all these issues.
Who is the customer in a temple?
It is the devotee.
What constitutes customer satisfaction for the devotee?
Is the ISO competent authority to determine what satisfaction should a devotee enjoy in a temple?
Does it know or does anyone know what satisfaction, worship can give to a devotee?
If it is about cleanliness - maintain it. It is everybody’s duty to maintain cleanliness. It is the duty of the devotee to maintain cleanliness. It is the easiest and foremost seva or service to God and to the temple. Should we have some agency to do the cleaning? When we say that we should have, we are only making the devotee forfeit his responsibility of maintaining cleanliness in the temple and also discourage him from his right of doing it as a service.
Another factor is the noisy atmosphere in a temple which many think is marring the ambiance of the temple.
They are wrong.
They must be bustling with activity. The noise of people, the noise of children and their running hither and there are all parts of temple ambiance. Such an expression is the result of the mind getting free once inside the temple. One can feel this in olden temples where the austerities are held as per tradition. Even if there is not much flow of devotees to the temple, the temple will be dotted with birds that make happy sounds. As per rules of temple building, the temple furnished with pigeon holes is the perfect one, says Varahamihira. The ISO may consider the pigeon holes housing the birds as a nuisance and may insist of closing them!
If some ISO certification must be there, that must be on temple guidelines,
- on how much space must be there for gardens around the temple,
- on how much open space must be there around the sannidhis and around the temple.
- on how the area around the temple along with the temple tank must be free of occupation or encroachment.
- on how the basic structure of the temple must be retained according to sastras on temple structure. And so on.
Look at what Brihad Samhita says on rules of temple building. Of the 31 verses in the 56th chapter on the building rules for temple given by sage Garga, 9 are on locational factors.
The focus of these verses is on abundant supply of water and abundant growth of gardens around the temple, growing shady trees within the temple and having water tanks or ponds around the temple.
The temple stretches on all four sides with tanks and gardens, made artificial or natural occuring.
Sage Garga says that only in such an environment Devas reside!
Look at the google earth picture of Parthasarathy temple.
As per Brihad samhita specifications, the entire temple complex must have been originally bigger than what it is now – it has now shrunk within the 4 walls. With a growing and greedy population, the temple has shrunk in size.
Take a close look at the temple. Almost four fifths of the complex is sealed on top.
This was not so in olden days – say about 25 to 30 years ago. There was open space all around the sannidhis that ensured good air circulation.
But today the temple looks like a fortified granite structure that does not even allow air to enter or circulate. This happens in a temple that is situated near the sea shore and supposed to be bathed by sea breeze on all days
So what does the ‘customer’ of the temple experience?
Heat and sweating.
The swelling crowd is another reason. But that is not a valid reason. Thousands used to throng the temple on many occasions in the past too. In Sangam literature on Irunthayur (Koodalazhakar of Madurai), we read a description of continuous flow of devotees on all days. But were they inconvenienced by the heat?
No. Mainly because the temple structure is made in such a way that there is good air flow and ventilation.
Parthasarathy temple also was a very well ventilated structure – ONCE!
Today the whole temple looks like a massive enclosure in granite.
Look at the google earth pic of the top view of Parthasarathy temple.
Almost the entire temple has been closed on top. Only the frontage of the Narasimhar sannidhi is not closed.
The temple was not like this in those days.
Mindless constructions in due course have cut off the air flow near the garbhagraha.
In olden days, the open areas would be thatched during utsavs and in summer. Devotees used to bear the expenses as part of service to the temple. By making permanent ceilings and permanent closures at many places, the participation of devotees in temple affairs is denied, besides making the temple look like a fortress where not even air can enter.
In contrast, look at the Koodalazhagar temple (Irunthayur of Paripaadal).
There is enough open space around and the air flow within the temple is good.
But here again the temple has been shrunk as it has lost its tank and a branch of Vaigai which was once flowing close to this temple. This temple is in existence from the 2nd Sangam period onwards. The Pandyan king decided on his emblem of Fish only after taking bath in the tank of this temple. The temple history says this. But where is the tank today?
Periyaazhwar had the vision of the deity of this temple for whom he sang the “Thirup Pallaandu”. Such was the glory of the deity of this temple.
Today the temple had just managed to keep its main sanctum in tact within the four walls. The only consolation is that no mindless structure has come up marring the atmospherics of this temple. If there is an ISO certification, it must address these issues and not what the comforts the devotee enjoys in the temple.
Look at Meenakshi temple – which was in news recently for the replacement of AC.
Even this temple has some open areas around. Our ancestors who had brought up the 1000 pillared structures and the like have done thoughtfully without marring the atmospherics within the temple complex.
Coming to the ISO certification to Parthasarathy temple, the AC installation looks like a feature to add to the comfort of the ‘customer’.
Where did the need arise to install air conditioners?
The culprit is the closure all around.
The closures could not have come up without the orders of the administration employed by the Government.
The closure hinders air movement.
The governmental administration thinks only on material aspects.
It thinks only about the money the temple gets.
Nowadays all types of temple services are sold!
Carrying the deity on shoulders during procession was once considered as a noble service that a devotee can do to God.
Today it is a paid service and officials are happy to gloat over their administrative ideas in calling for tender for this service too!!
That is the level of degeneration in maintaining the temple culture.
This is the way temples are degenerating in Kali yuga!
The temples will soon lose their power to protect the people and the community.
Not only in Parthasarathy temple, I felt a kind of suffocation in the famous Oppiliappan temple also in my recent visit. These are the temples I have regularly visited since my childhood. Definitely the temple ambiance is gone with more structures and extensions coming up. It looks like how a greedy house owner will expand his house to let it out to many tenants.
If we allow the government to continue its hold on temples, the temples will lose their relevance.
After seeing Parthasarathy temple, I am sure that ISO is not the right idea.
The sooner the awareness is built on the undesirability of treating the devotees as customers and temples on par with business establishments, the better.
The first step is to take out the temples from Government’s hands.
The local community around the temple must step in.
They must take an ownership and pride in the temple of their locality.
It is their temple, their past pride and the God of that temple is their protector.
In turn they have to protect the temples in their pristine forms for their future generations.
A research on what happens inside a temple.
The following report is from ‘Indian Express’ published on
This is about the HR and CE stall at the Tourist Trade Fair held at Chennai then.
‘Teachers and students of Parasakthi College, Courtallam, through a set of experiments using laboratory gadgets, make a scientific interpretation of the chanting of slokas, abhisheka of the idol and offering of fruits and leaves. "
First it is explained how there is a proportionate configuration to the sanctum sanctorum and the idol it houses – the sanctorum is structured in such a way that the idol in it reflects any sound wave to the maximum effect.
A tuning fork is vibrated in the hall with little sound reproduction, but when it is struck and placed before the entrance of a small model sanctorum, a loud hum is heard. The forks invariably produce a sound resembling the chant "
The lecturer explained that among the various chants, "
Next it is explained how the presence of negative ions increases in moist condition rather in dry condition using a condenser to infer why the sanctum sanctorum is always kept moist by pouring water over the idol and washing it with water continuously. Similarly the conduction of the stone idol also increases when it is moist – this is demonstrated by comparing the conductivity of dry granite and that of a wet idol.
The materials used for the abhisheka of the idol increases the conductivity of the stone through their own pH values. pH value of a substance is the negative concentration of the ion it possesses. Most of the materials used for abhisheka – milk, curd, sandalpaste, turmeric powder, vermilion powder, vibuthi have high pH values, a simple chemical experiment shows. And when they are poured over the idol they increase the conductivity of the idol, also ionizing it.
A resistance reading on the ohmmeter of the idol after these elements have been poured shows the increased conductivity of the idol. The chanting of the mantras and the more frequent "
The lighting of camphor during the deeparadhna displaces the air, which is partially charged with ions, and the devotees inside the sanctum inhale these ions. These negative ions have the physiological function of fixing oxygen with hemoglobin in the blood, the lecturer explained. They are concentrated on beach shores and mountaintops in the early morning, which explains doctor’s advice to heart patients for early morning beach walks.
In the final inference, it is explained, a devotee’s presence in the sanctum during abhisheka helps his system induct more negative ions than he usually inhales. A visit to the temple is a good substitute for morning walk, the lecturer explained, and a tonic for good health.
But with temples becoming overcrowded, it would not be a wonder if these negative ions are submerged by the excessive carbon dioxide exhaled in the packed sanctum which is meant to house only ten people at a time. Similarly the chanting of "
(end of news report )
News report of ISO certification for temples:-
Three Famous Temples in Chennai applied for ISO 9000-2008
Sat, 2010-02-13 — editor
Sathyalaya Ramakrishnan Reporting from Chennai
Chennai, 13 February, (Asiantribune.com):
Three Famous Temples in Chennai have applied for ISO 9000-2008 certification for its Cleanliness.
According to Mr Jayaraman, Joint Commissioner Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board(HR&CEB), the three temples were selected following a recent announcement made by state government in the assembly. "These are some of the well-maintained temples in the city; so the department asked their officials to apply for ISO certification", Jayaraman said.
These three temples have included their fixed assets, accounts and strict adherence to rituals for scrutiny by the ISO. The temple administration has included the student's home, marriage hall and the temple tank for assessment, another official in the HR&CEB said.
Kapaleeswarar temple is among the richest in the city. Its annual income is around Rs 4 crore and it has fixed deposits the tune of RS 25 crore. Recently the temple earned Rs 17 crore from the sale of land for construction of the Mass Rapid Transit System.
The cleaning and mopping of the Kapaleeswarar and Parthasarathy temples have been outsourced to a private firm, which also maintains the Tirupathi-Tirumala Venkatachalapathi shrine.
A Popular Hotel chain "Saravana Bhavan", maintains the Vadapalani temple free of cost. The temple has included stores, administration, details of its premises, adherence to rituals, festivals and distribution of free "vibuthi' and 'Kumkum' for inspection by the ISO team.
The HR&CEB has asked the temple's authorities to spend from their resources in case modifications are suggested by the ISO authorities.
CHENNAI: Cleanliness, they say, is next to godliness. Taking the adage seriously, the three biggest temples in the city have applied for ISO 9000:2008 certification. ISO officials have already conducted inspections at the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane and the Dhandayudhapani temple in Vadapalani, and a team is expected to visit the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore this month.
According to PR Shampath, commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE), the three temples were selected following a recent announcement made by HR&CE minister KR Periakaruppan in the assembly. "These are some of the well-maintained temples in the city; so the department asked their officials to apply for ISO certificates," Shampath said.
Recently, the Siddhi Vinayak temple at Gandhipuram,
ISO 9001:2008 is a world class quality management system for companies/organizations who have an objective of improving their customer satisfaction. The International Standards Organization (ISO) has defined the elements of an effective quality management system and calls it the ISO 9000 family of standards. The standards issued in 1994 were revised in December 2000, and again in November 2008.
The three city temples have included their fixed assets, accounts and strict adherence to rituals for scrutiny by the ISO. An official of Kapaleeswarar temple said, "The administration has included the Karunai Illam (students’ home), kalyana mandapam and the temple tank for assessment. We are expecting the ISO team to inspect the temple this week."
Kapaleeswarar temple is among the richest in the city. "Its annual income is around Rs 4 crore and it has fixed deposits to the tune of Rs 25 crore. It earned Rs 17 crore from the sale of land for construction of the Mass Rapid Transit System," Shampath said.
The cleaning and mopping of the Kapaleeswarar and Parthasarathy temples have been outsourced to a private firm, which also maintains the Tirumala temple.
A popular hotel chain maintains the Vadapalani temple free of cost. The temple has included stores, administration, details of its premises, adherence to rituals, festivals and distribution of free ‘vibuthi’ and ‘kumkum’ for inspection by the ISO team.
The HR&CE department has asked the temples to spend from their resources in case modifications are suggested by the ISO authorities. "The Kapaleeswarar temple has not incurred any additional cost towards getting the ISO certificate. It has till now paid only the processing fee, which is a small amount," the temple official said.
When asked whether the Palani Dhandayudhapani and Madurai Meenakshi temples would also apply for ISO certificates, Shampath said, "We will ask others to apply once the temples in the city get the certificates."