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HINDUS IN INDIA ARE TAKING TEMPLE REStoration into their own hands, or hashtags it seems. The hashtags #ReclaimTemples and #SundayforDharma spotlight community activists who are reclaiming their abandoned neighborhood temples.

“An initiative launched through tweets, hashtags and social media posts has now snowballed into a movement in Karnataka that aims to undo the damage done to these temples that were not only religious centers but also melting pots of culture, art and education,” writes Harsha Bhat of Swaraj Magazine. His editorial, published in December, 2017, highlights the use of #ReclaimTemples and talks with members of the movement.

Harsha continues, “Spearheaded by activist Girish Bharadwaja, the movement aims to bring together people to not just deplore the deteriorating state of these relics or talk about their horrific past, but to get peoples’ hands dirty and ‘reclaim temples’ that have endured this distressing treatment over the past decades and, in some cases, centuries.”

Bharadwaja explains how the movement got started: “Having seen hundreds of posts about ruined and uncared-for temples, I wondered if I could use the 15,000-odd followers on Twitter to do something about it. This is why I took to social media and appealed to locals around these temples.…The first one we chose was in Kashipura in Hassan, to join hands to reclaim our temples.”

According to Swaraj, Bharadwaja began the small movement through his trust, Bharata Punarutthana, and now has hundreds of volunteers supporting the efforts physically, legally and financially. Because it all revolves around hashtags and social media, the age group is under 40, thus spreading Hindu culture to the next generation on a whole new level.

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@KBSVBHARAT

“Bharadwaja’s post on social media,” reports Swaraj, “asking people to look for and report any temple ruins led a youngster from Kalaburgi, Sachin Halkeri, to start searching for such sites, probing virtually, scanning history books and pursuing similar activities. Kalaburgi is home to many temples that were destroyed during the reign of the Delhi sultanate. And Halkeri, who spends his birthday every year doing something for society, started the temple cleanup activities at Kalaburgi this year. The Sunday of 26 November was thus spent by a group of youngsters cleaning the Chinchansu Maheshwara Devalaya in Kalaburgi, and the transformation was immense.”

“This is a temple that has 12 Jyotirlingas in one place, half of which have been destroyed, sadly. Having cleaned the temple, we are now looking at what it will take for those to be reinstalled and rituals restarted,” said Halkeri.

Swaraj captured the voice of medical student Sanjay K. M. of S. Nijalingappa Medical College in Bagalkot, who saw posts about the cleanup efforts under the hagtag #SundayforDharma. “We were around 15 of us who gathered all that was required for the cleaning process and headed to the temple. It was sad to see food, paper and the like thrown around and the temple premises being treated like a dustbin,” said Sanjay, who along with his friends are glad that the response to their effort not only received appreciation but also encouraged fellow students, doctors and professors in their college to join them in their future efforts.

“What was just a thought,” writes Harsha of Swaraj, “turned into hashtags #ReclaimTemples and #SundayforDharma, which has now taken the form of a massive movement with people from all over the country and abroad supporting their efforts.”

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The Bharata Punarutthana and the KBSV Bharat Trust, which has been doing similar work in Kerala, have dedicated phone numbers that people can call and send images or information regarding temples that need attention. To reach the trusts on Twitter see @punarutthana and @kbsvbharat; for KBSV phone, call 91 9747923251.

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