the somnambulist

the somnambulist

Temple Management

Not long ago, I and Priya decided to take a bike ride to Chilkoor, a temple on the boundary of the Gandipet reservoir. We started out at 9:00 in the morning and after driving about 25 kilometers through idyllic suburbs, we reached Chilkoor. True to the reputation of any public place in India, the temple was crawling with devotees. There were people there from all walks of life. People in big cars, people on bikes and people who had availed public transportation to get to the temple. The entire economy of the place seemed to have evolved around the temple. There were local youths engaged as parking attendants, meticulously noting down the numbers of all vehicles that entered the lot, and issuing parking tickets after the payment of a modest amount of two rupees. Waiting immediately outside the parking lot was a curious mix of children and adults, shouting unintelligible sales pitches in Telugu. It took them about a minute to realize that we were not locals and out of the crowd a man emerged, shouting to us in Hindi why we should buy the offerings for the Lord from his stall. The deal was that if we bought offerings (2 cocunuts and two garlands) from his stall, he would look after our footwear free of charge. To the uninitiated, most Hindu temples do not allow footwear on their premises. They usually have footwear attendants who look after your footwear in return of a small amount that goes to the coffers of the temple trust. The man charged us rupees thirty for a offering and gave directions as to how we could enter the temple and how we could locate his stall from the temple exit, which was on the other side of the entrance. There were at least two dozen other such small stalls in a row, that sold offerings and acted as guardians of footwear for the devotees.

The footwear issue now settled, we decided to enter the temple. The first thing that greeted us when we entered was the coconut cracking platform. It was a granite basin with sharp edges where the devotees were supposed to crack the first of their coconuts. On cracking a coconut, half of it is retained by the devotee and the other half goes to the temple management as offerings to the Lord. There were people with baskets waiting to collect the other half of the cocunut. A filled basket is expertly whisked across a wall and sent to the interiors of the temple. Finally we got to the heart of the temple. The sight that greeted us was nothing short of spectacular. There was an open courtyard about 40m x 40m. There were about 500 devotees, half of them queued up neatly to do the Darshan (seeing the Lord's idol) and the other half making rounds of the idol chamber. Without much ado, we joined the tail of the queue. The queue had three layers, entwined around the idol chamber. One surprising thing was that, in the two hours or so that I was in the temple, the queue never grew to more than three layers. The design of the queuing system looked evolutionary and therefore was a higly accurate model of the number of people it would serve on any given day. The entire courtyard was monitored using CCTV, and the feeds were checked by temple attendants constantly. Another useful innovation that was implemented at the temple was a round-counting ticket that was available on the payment of a token amount. The ticket is used by devotees doing rounds of the idol chamber (108), and is very handy for keeping track of the number of rounds completed so far. By the time we got to see the Lord, we had been in queue for nearly half an hour. There was a minder near the idol, who was constantly urging devotees to move on, after they had taken a peek at the Lord. Each devotee gets to see the Lords face for about 15 seconds. Surprisingly there were no delays or gluts at the head of the queue, inspite of the large number of devotees.

All this motioned to the existence of very effective evolutionary designs in management of a large number of people. The entire system of the temple was optimised for just one purpose, providing a safe and hassle-free spiritual experience. Now imagine a supermarket single server queue and imagine 250 people queued up to check their purchases out. The confusion that would arise out of such a situation would be harrowing. Also notable was the fusion of modern technology with time tested methods for queue management. The temple management projected themselves as people who are constantly learning new ways to make the entire system more effective and hassle-free for the devotees. India is a land of temples. There are approximately two thousand temples listed on Templenet. The more popular ones sometimes get 1 lakh footfalls on auspicious days. Now imagine a popular mall recieving one lakh footfalls someday. The entire system would be thrown out of gear. There would be utter chaos. But, temples can easily handle such huge crowds, without any discomfit to the public. The way they do that is by fine tuning their operations to the best extent possible. Their ultimate aim is to expedite the spiritual experience without causing any discomfit to the public. Obviously, the larger the number of footfalls in a day, the larger the donations made to the temple Hundi. Monetary implications such as these encourage temple trusts to optimise their processes to allow for greater footfalls.

So, why not introduce a course on Temple Management. Temples are big business and all big businesses require competent managers. Also there are definitely lessons to learn in management of temples which could be applied to domains such as retailing. When courses such as Agri-Business Management and IT Management exist, why not a course on Temple Management. After all, spirituality is also an experience and therefore needs to be optimised. Then, we could have ISO 9001:2000 certified temples.


At 8:59 PM, Blogger priya said...

Nice article. I have visited Tirupathi, the most richest temple in india.

At tirupathi, to get a darshan of the lord, you might have to wait for a minimum of 4-5 hours. Queues are well maintained at the commencement point but after travelling some distance in the queue when people don't find any management committe volunteer, they become most indisciplined. You can catch sights of people pushing each other just to get ahead.

And when the queue ends near the sanctum sanctorium, it is a huge mess with people just rushing in to get the darshan. Even the concerned officials are not able to control or avoid that. And the whole experience of getting the darshan becomes so tiring.

Perhaps an ISO certification could make the experience much more comfortable for the devotees.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger sumandatta said...

eagerly awaiting the tirupathi temple IPO :-)

At 2:16 AM, Blogger arundhoti said...

Guess the couple is getting too spiritual!:-)
And my dear sankha,the management bug has really got to you.

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Suraj Kamath said...

Get THEE from my father's house! now who said that? and look how he ended up. :) This fasttrack, wham-bam-thank you punditji spirituality is one of the reasons god has not lately seen this nalayak son of his in any of his certified places of residence. I like small temples with meditative atmospheres, the less idols the better. Maybe I'm a minimalist, but I'll take trees, silence, and a whiff of peace to any cctv equipped place of worship. But I'm sure BVQi would love the idea of ISOing Temples. Ensured quality of Spiritual Experience, anyone? metered doses available. :)


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