Rs 10 Lakhs Pay: Corporates’ Envy, Pujaris’ Pride

Paras K Jha

To be a priest seems more lucrative an offer than working in anMNCwith an MBA from some prestigious B-school!

Finding it hard to believe? Well, you will soon see reason when you learn what the priests atShreeDwarkadhishTemple, also known as Trilokya Sunder Jagat Mandir at Dwarka, earn for their service. The state government has paid Rs10,89,32,336 (more than Rs10.89 crore) in the last three years to the priests of the temple as their share from the temple’s income.

This was disclosed by the state pilgrimage development minister Jay Narayan Vyas while replying to an un-starred question asked by Congress MLA Raghavji Patel. Interestingly, the temple committee manages the administration of the temple from the 17% share of the total income of the temple while the rest, i.e., 83% goes to priests’ families.

“We have been given the right of serving Thakorji (Lord Krishna’s pooja) since 1934 by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Vadodara. During that period, Dwarka region fell under his kingdom. The constitution of the temple had been finalised in 1934 and since then the district collector is the president of the temple committee.

Earlier priests’ share was 94% of the temple income, which has, however, been reduced to 83% now,” said Dipak Thaker, who is a 10th generation member of three main priests who were given the rights of service to the temple.

From the three brothers — Ramji, Mohanji and Damji Thaker — who served as main priests, there are 36 priests in their lineage today. The earnings are shared among all the 36 priests. So, in last three years, every priest pocketed Rs30.25 lakh, which comes down to over Rs10 lakh annually for each of them.

However, Thaker has a different take on the issue. Listing out the responsibilities of priests, he said that they don’t get more than 10% of the total income and as a matter of fact, family members of many of the priests eke out a living from other businesses or jobs.

“Though we get 83 % share in the temple’s income, the priest has to bear all the expenses made within the temple complex.

Expense per day for all these rituals and services is more than Rs10,000,” said Thaker. Downplaying the earnings, he added: “As per the members of the lineages of those three main priests, there are turns where some priests are getting chance of service for 60 days in a year, whereas some only get only one day. Therefore, income is not that much impressive for all these priests.”