Divine Sovereignty, Indian Property Law, and the Dispute Over the Padmanabhaswamy Temple

Modern Asian Studies 50, no. 3 (2016): 841-865.

Posted: 8 Sep 2015 Last revised: 25 Aug 2018

See all articles by Deepa Das Acevedo

Deepa Das Acevedo

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2013

Abstract

Secular governance in India was meant to have incorporated religion within public life, but the implementation of ‘Indian secularism’ has in important ways been premised on separating religious and secular lifeworlds. Public Hindu temples, whose assets and operations are managed by a melange of statutory bodies, courts, and state governments, exemplify this puzzling situation. The 2011 discovery of treasures within the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum, Kerala, prompted extended public debate about the ownership of temple assets as well as litigation that eventually reached the Supreme Court of India. Indian citizens, erstwhile princely rulers, and the deity of the temple were variously presented as the true owners of the wealth. Ultimately, both public discourse and judicial opinion largely reaffirmed the notion that religious institutions are to be treated as private, contractually defined properties, and that temple wealth, as specifically religious property, exists outside of market circulations.

Keywords: India, property law, Hinduism, temples, trusts and estates, Kerala

Suggested Citation

Das Acevedo, Deepa, Divine Sovereignty, Indian Property Law, and the Dispute Over the Padmanabhaswamy Temple (September 1, 2013). Modern Asian Studies 50, no. 3 (2016): 841-865.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2657702

Deepa Das Acevedo (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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