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In almost all Hindu temples there is a Hundi (money pot) where people deposit money or offer it to God during an aarthi. Are they giving money to God? If yes, why? God creates everything, why would He need anything from us?

One thing which often confuses me is the fact that money and prosperity is depicted by Goddess Lakshmi. Do we see money as a gift from goddess or goddess herself. If it's a gift why would we offer this to a different god? Isn't this offending other gods or morally wrong?

What does Hindu scripture say about the offerings given to god (or in the name of god)? Is it only money which needs to be given at temples? What are other ways to thank god apart from giving money?

PS: In most temples if you don't give money to the priest doing aarthi, either he neglects you or frowns upon you. I find this very sad and very disturbing. That is the reason I am asking this question.

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    The origin of the Hundi was in the famous Tirupati Venkateshwara temple. Vishnu's Venkateshwara form took a loan from Kubera god of wealth, and an Hundi was set up to pay back the interest on the loan, as I discuss in my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/7692/36 Then other temples realized that having an Hundi was a valuable way to fund temple operations, so now Hundis are a common feature in temples. In any case, in most temples when you put money in an Hundi, you're not directly giving it to a god, but you're giving it to help the temple so they can continue serving the gods. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 6 '15 at 19:01
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    The gods certainly care that you're donating money for their sake, so that their statues are taken care of and the temple stays open so that others can come and pray, and the temple continues doing its other good works. In any case, the only cases in which you're directly giving something to do gods are naivedyam, where you offer food or water and then take it as prasadam, and Yagnas, where you pour ghee and other offerings into the fire. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 6 '15 at 19:09
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    Yagnas are certainly important in a cosmic sense; the Vishnu Purana says "havisham parinamoyam yat etad akhilam jagat" - the whole world is built out of the transformation of Yagna offerings. But at a personal level, the importance of a Yagna is that you're willing to sacrifice the material for the sake of the spiritual - you're throwing valuable objects into the fire for the sake of the gods. The same principle applies in the case of Hundis: you're giving up the money in your pocket for the sake of the gods. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 6 '15 at 19:13
  • I would say, people nowadays giving money but not in old ages because they valued yaga hinduwebsite.com/yagna.asp or sacrifices more than money, but nowadays money is more valuable than anything (anything includes gods) and peoples puts money into hundi thinking because it might help poor whowere coming to temples in the form of annadhana en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C4%81na or in some other forms, the priest also feels he is also poor :-) – Arasu Aug 7 '15 at 6:59
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    Hundis should not be used until the Govt give up the hold on Hindu temple treasure. – Yogi Sep 22 '16 at 20:41
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The devtas are not extortionists who want to extort money from you and if you don't give send you to hell.

Giving Dāna

Giving in Hindu tradition is called dāna. The tradition of dāna goes back to Rig Veda. Yajñāḥ is making offering to the Devas(often translated as 'sacrifice'). Usually dravya i.e grains, ghee, etc are offered through agni(fire). This was an act of gratitude to the pancha bhootas and the devas also a means for connection with the divine as a friend and a guide.

Dāna was not only given to the devas but also to those who are in need. Bhagavad Gita 17.20 - 17.22 talks about giving dāna(translations by Swami Mukundananda):

BG 17.20: Charity given to a worthy person simply because it is right to give, without consideration of anything in return, at the proper time and in the proper place, is stated to be in the mode of goodness.

BG 17.21: But charity given with reluctance, with the hope of a return or in expectation of a reward, is said to be in the mode of passion.

BG 17.22: And that charity, which is given at the wrong place and wrong time to unworthy persons, without showing respect, or with contempt, is held to be of the nature of nescience.

Giving Dāna to Temples

Wikipedia entry on Dāna in historical records has a good description along with sources cited of why dāna is offered to temples:

Hindu temples served as charitable institutions. Burton Stein states that South Indian temples collected donations (melvarum) from devotees, during the Chola dynasty and Vijayanagara Empire periods in 1st millennium through first half of 2nd millennium AD. These dāna were then used to feed people in distress as well as fund public projects such as irrigation and land reclamation.

Even today despite the apathy of the 'secular' government of India which grabs the money collected from temples, most temples offer anna dāna(food offering) to the public.

Giving Dāna to Priests

Priests(pujaris/pundits) belong to the Brahmana varna. Dharmaśāstras(e.g. Manu Smriti 4-4:6, 4-7:8) prohibit them from owning property or earning income. They are supposed to live only by taking bhiksha(collecting alms by begging) from people. This was honored in the ancient times. In modern times, this system is almost non-existent. Giving money to the pujari is the modern equivalent of bhiksha. In times of need, the king used to provide to the pundits but in today's time the secular government excludes those of the Brahmana varna from most of social welfare schemes.

On a side note, dāna also plays a central role in Mahayana Buddhism where it is one of the 6 Pāramitās(perfections) to be achieved by a practitioner.

  • So can people stop donating to priests now because they too own properties, earn income (temples might pay them stipend, provide them housing etc.) and they don't need to depend on separate donations? – sv. Apr 26 '16 at 18:50
  • If the priest is richer than you :P – Bharat Apr 26 '16 at 18:55
  • There's no way to verify that and in Kali-yuga safest bet is to donate to the poor and needy than temple priests ;-) – sv. Apr 26 '16 at 19:27
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    What is the guarantee that the pujari is not poor. The ones in temples in big cities might not be poor but go to remote villages to ancient temples and the priests are living in abject poverty and neglect. I had visited many temples in deep interiors of Tamil Nadu. The priests there live in a very pathetic state which changed my opinion. Often donating to 'poor and needy' ignores these poor Brahnanas who have nothing left but Bhakti and Shraddha. – Bharat Apr 26 '16 at 19:45
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    Yes donations came in the forms you describe. But Manusmriti puts a bound on how much property a Brahmana can hold. : i.imgur.com/g4TUYgv.jpg ; So even if someone gives a huge donation, it'll be illegal to hold on to it – Bharat Jul 27 '17 at 20:29
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1) The money put in "Hundi" is for temple maintenance

2) Money put on "arati" plate is for the temple priest sustenance

3) In good old days, the temples were taken care by the King / Rulers.

4) With changing times, there are no rules, so the "hundi" system came into being

5) With dwindling donations, the priest to sustain their own daily living has become an issue

6) A good priest to sustain, the "donations" made through "aarti platter' is like rewarding someone for an good or holy act.

7) Supporting the holy people, does good to the society

8) Caution is to be exercised for there are many fake babas & swami's in society bringing bad name to Hinduism

9) Best is to trust spiritual organizations established by Sri Adi shankaracharya


Any donation or money (material contribution) is to done with detachment. It is immaterial how much one has donated to Priest or Temple, so long it is done with a detachment results are same. The first and foremost thing to remember, is to forget all the good deeds that you might have done since birth, to gain return benefits. Death occurs when your present karma gets exhausted or "power" in one's nadi get depleted. The demarcating line between karmic benefits of good and bad actions of present birth & next birth is death. In death, one loses all memory to the extent that even if mind is "shaken" with a hammer, one cannot recollect things of past. So instant forgetfulness of any good or bad karmic act is beneficial.
A donation to temple (larger society) or to an individual priest, hindu scriptures says god is ominipresent in all, further, scriptures also say - "manava dharma, madhava dharma". Serving or helping or donating to people is equivalent to serving the god, who is inherent in every animate and inanimate being.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! You should cite sources. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 8 '15 at 18:27
  • After going through all the comments and answers, I think temple authorities and priest should not disguise it in the name of God. I am completely OK with helping them to run temples and their households. But not OK with the message they are spreading i.e God needs money or we should offer money so we will be blessed more. I guess there is nothing in writing in our holy scriptures about this. – Utkarsh Aug 8 '15 at 18:48
  • It is not so much an offering to the gods or God as it is an offering to the people who are doing the sacrifices. Householders are enjoined in The Laws of Manu (Chapter III) to give to those who perform sacrifices on their behalf. – Swami Vishwananda Aug 9 '15 at 11:18
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    @Utkarsh It's definitely true that you'll be blessed more If you give money to the priests; look at all the benefits the Rig Veda mentions if you give a lot of money to priests who perform Yagnas for you: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/2492/36 – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 9 '15 at 14:50
  • Again, comment answers my question better than the actual answer. why everyone write comments instead of answers. – Utkarsh Aug 12 '15 at 19:09

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