Feeling the heat of the financial crisis arising out the coronavirus pandemic, the Sabarimala Temple in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala is planning to tap on massive gold reserve in its vaults. The Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) is planning to approach the Reserve Bank of India for gold loans.
Located on the hills inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala is one of the richest Indian temples and considered to hold massive riches including gold jewellery received in offerings for over the years.
Sabarimala temple attracts over 30 million visitors a year.
A report published in LiveMint said there were over 1200 other temples across Kerala under the TDB who were planning to raise money from the gold loan. It is the cash crunch that has forced the temple authorities to go for gold loans.
The Mint report said that some of teh wealthiest temples in India — from Sri Venkateswara temple at Andhra Pradesh’s Tirumala to Sri Krishna temple in Kerala’s Guruvayur—were struggling to pay staff salaries.
In May, the TDB had even decided to sell unused “lamps and traditional brass utensils" to generate funds.
What gold loans may cost
The RBI's Gold Monetization Scheme scheme allows banks' customers to deposit their idle gold holdings for a fixed period in return for interest in the range of 2.25 per cent to 2.50 per cent.
“On 22 August, central government officials held a meeting with prominent temple boards. At least 10 boards participated in it. They encouraged us to use the existing ‘Gold Monetization Scheme’ (made in 2015), where we can avail a 2.5% interest against gold loans deposited to RBI through banks," TDB president N Vasu was quoted by Mint.