It Once Happened…
The British were in India and held great sway through the East India Company. One of their rewarding financial `arrangements’ was to arrange for monies being paid to temples for their maintenance to instead be paid as a tax to them.
The Indian system is that endowments are often left by rich devotee patrons so that the Deity of the temple can be worshipped in perpetuity. And often the endowment was the entire village wherein the temple stood, along with all its fields, many of its rented houses and tithes. In the world-view of the Europeans this did not make sense. Why should taxes be paid to a sacred `image’ in a temple and not to the ruling monarch or the empowered officers?
Sir Thomas Munroe, one of the East India Company officers in south India in the early part of the 19th century, was asked to `resume’ one such endowment village: the small community of Mantralaya. On the appointed day he met with the elders of the temple who told him that he could pay his respects at the Samadhi (tomb) of the great Madhva saint who had established the temple – Sri Raghavendra Tirtha Swami.
Sir Thomas slipped off his shoes and entered the tomb. The onlookers then heard him talking with someone within. However, they could only hear Sir Thomas’s voice and not the person he was talking to.
Several minutes later he emerged from the tomb with some yellow-coloured dry rice in his hand. He told the onlookers that he had just spoken to `the swami’ who had convinced him of the irrevocability of the endowment and given him some Prasad, and was astonished when the elders told him who had given it to him!
Sir Thomas ordered the rice – Mantrakshate Prasad – to be cooked along with his evening meal and gave up any thought of `resuming’ the taxes of the village to the British.
(This episode is found in a British newspaper of the time, The Madras Gazettier, which can still be viewed at the Collectorate in Anantapura)