(L to R) Mohan Bhagwat, Prasad Lad, Sunil Bharadwaj, Giresh Kulkarni, Ashok Tiwari
Some of the world’s most renowned and richest temple ecosystems joined in the conversation to usher change in favour of standardisation, organisation and even digitisation of devotee experiences at this one-of-its-kind symposium of ideas
1098 delegates from 32 countries and over 250 renowned temples partook in the world’s first-of-its-kind gathering to support and uplift organisation, management and administration of temple ecosystems. The event featured 40 sessions, including 10 keynotes addresses, 10 Temple Talks (aka landmark stories) and over 15 insightful feature sessions and panel discussions. Additionally, the convention served as a remarkable launch pad for over 5 new-age innovative products and digitisation services catering to the unique temple ecosystem and its related universe.
- The event was inaugurated by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat along with ITCX founders Prasad Lad and Giresh Kulkarni
- The event was attended by Ashwini Kumar Choubey (Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution of India), Dr. Sudhanshu Trivedi (National Spokesperson of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Member of Rajya Sabha), and Milind Parande (Secretary General, Vishwa Hindu Parishad) among othe
- One-of-its-kind world stage launches India’s first Smart Temples Mission
- Delegates from over 250 temples represented leaders across Sikhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism
- 32 countries joined over 40 sessions, both virtually via live stream and in person
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended support to the event and its purpose
VARANASI (for nation-wide release), July 25: The World’s first-of-its-kind International Temples Convention and Expo 2023 (ITCX) held from July 22-24 rounded up last evening at the Rudraksh Convention Centre in Varanasi with a soulful and fitting celebratory end.
Over three days, 1098 delegates from 32 countries converged on equal footing to participate and present on the knowledge-sharing and networking platform that featured talks, sessions and case studies on organization, management and administration of temple ecosystems.
The ITCX 2023 Impact
The three-day event paved the way for a new era of best practices for temple management with a new-age and modernised approach. Temple Connect was at the epicentre of stirring a revolution in the organisation, management and administration of temple ecosystems to benefit the end consumer aka the pilgrim. This reboot synergy held the rapt attention of leaders and dignitaries at the helm of temple management.
A brainchild of Giresh Kulkarni, founder of Temple Connect and ITCX 2023, his team spent the last six months visiting temples, collating management pain points and creating in-depth research to empower the event. The result managed to instill a new-age elevation of knowledge learning by bringing the entire temple fraternity together to interact, share and connect through engaging on-stage sessions and off-stage networking.
An incredible line-up of expert talks, discussions and presentations on sustainable temple management and development practices were conducted by a galaxy of like-minded dignitaries and willingly absorbed by the attendees.
DAY 1: Opening the floor to enthralling sessions
On the first day, the monumental convention was inaugurated by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat along with founders of the convention, Giresh Kulkarni (also founder of Temple Connect) and Prasad Lad, (Chairman, International Temples Convention & Expo 2023 and Member Of Maharashtra Legislative Council).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s letter of support for ITCX spoke volumes about its potential and significance to the global temple ecosystem. His words of encouragement inspired participants to embrace the vision of ‘Vikas Bhi, Virasat Bhi’.
The convention began with a Temple Talk by Shri. A.V. Dharma Reddy (Executive Officer, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams), sharing insights on managing one of the country’s richest and most visited temples. Special addresses followed by Shri Sudhanshu Trivedi (National Spokesperson, Bharatiya Janata Party and Member of Rajya Sabha), Smt. Tamilisai Soundararajan (Governor of Telangana & Lt. Governor of Puducherry), Shri Kovilur Swamiji, and Raghuvulu Yakali (National General Secretary, Vishwa Hindu Parishad). Shri Sunil Verma (I.A.S., CEO, Kashi Vishwanath Mandir) then presented an enriching temple talk on the ‘Kashi-Vishwanath Temple Corridor Project’ in Varanasi, focusing on enhancing pilgrims’ temple town experience.
Day 2: Temple case studies to launch pad for innovation solutions
On Day 2, the ICTX 2023 witnessed innovative launches, best practices of temple security and insights into diverse temple operations, including a case study on Ayodhya Ram Mandir by Shri Vishal Singh, IAS Municipal Commissioner, Temple Talk on Jain Temples conducted by Shri Naimish Shah, Seth Anandji Kalyanji Pedh and another one on Pandharpur was given by Shri Gahininath Maharaj Ausekar (Co-Chairman, Vitthal-Rukmini Mandir Samiti). Shri Gaurang Das Prabhuji of ISKCON gave a special address on Empowering the Temple Ecosystem. Shri Meenakshi Sunderam (Retd IAS) also shared her takeaways in a Temple Talk on the Traditional Management of Tamil Nadu Temples.
The highlight launch by Temple Connect was the introduction of Smart Temples Mission, which takes inspiration from the Smart City missions led by governments to improve a city. It offers to conduct audits and initiatives to empower even the temple-dependent ecosystem.
Taking cue from langars at gurudwaras, the ITCX also launched a food distribution initiative called Annadan initiative by Temple Connect.
Lastly, the convention also served as a platform for a knowledge-sharing open house on temple tourism and its improvement, envisioned to culminate into a white paper to present to higher authorities and key decision makers to manifest deep-rooted change that is backed by verified data.
DAY 3: End of convention marked beginning of change
On the last day, after an overview address by Giresh Kulkarni, the day’s session began with a Keynote Address by Shri Milind Parande, Secretary General, Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He spoke about the power of temple ecosystems and an overview of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir’s transformation. Sayali Lad, Founder & CEO, Volksara spearheaded a featured Session on Cyber Surveillance and Technology in the Temple Ecosystem followed by a Temple Talk on Temple Infrastructure by Shri Vishram Deo.
In the afternoon, Keynote Address on Temple Administration & Management, Temples of Rajasthan was led by IAS Pragya Kewalramani.
Temple attendance as per geography
- The West region list consisted of 100 temples from Goa, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
- From South Indian states, 80 temples across AP, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- Around13 temples from Central India.
- 12 temples from the North, 3 from Rajasthan, 10 from Uttar Pradesh, 2 from Uttarakhand.
- 12 from the East region, including Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- Global participation of 15 countries including Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Kenya, Thailand and UK.
GIRESH KULKARNI, FOUNDER OF ITCX 2023 & TEMPLE CONNECT:
“ITCX 2023, at its core, is disruptive, for it shatters the perception that temple ecosystems belong to a bygone era. To keep the value of traditions and devotion alive, temple administrations are ready to embrace the change. They have all the means and inclination to match the footsteps of technology and modernisation, and reboot their processes to suit the times.”
“The idea was to bring gigantic, mid-sized and even small temples together on one equal footing for a knowledge-sharing and networking platform and start a revolution in the organisation, management and administration of temple ecosystems to benefit the consumer or pilgrim.
We have given them a lot to think about, absorb and get inspired to implement practice to convenience the common man. The vision was clear – to improve management, operation and administration of the temple ecosystem.
We promoted adoption and use of new-age and modern approaches for ease of working. A CCTV camera does not choose who it secures depending on what religion they are from. Be it a gurdwara, a Buddhist shrine or a Jain mandir, it will do the same job of surveillance. We have tried to resolve matters related to the cause that may be left out due to limitation of understanding technology or not having the right channel to address the matter. We have put it all together for the benefit of all. The next big step is to go to all the temples, conduct audits, training master classes and workshops, and bridging the gap between service provider and key decision maker, all this for the convenience of the devotee who walks in.”
MEGHAA GHOSH, SHOW DIRECTOR & CO-CURATOR, ITCX 2023:
“That someone was thinking about making temples relevant to the youth was a no-brainer for me to be part of. We have found ourselves in a time where taking initiative matters. No one has attempted to create a forum for temple management, but there is always a first. The convention brings to the fore a sense of national pride in our rich Temple heritage. And the sessions and talks were designed with an intention to introduce innovation and available solutions into the temple ecosystem. We are beginning with four faiths with similar roots. We would love to see more faiths join the movement in the coming years.”
PRASAD LAD, CHAIRMAN OF INTERNATIONAL TEMPLES CONVENTION & EXPO 2023 AND MEMBER OF MAHARASHTRA LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL:
“We have achieved the gigantic feat of hosting 1098 delegates from 16 countries and even more participated in the live online streams.
I truly believe in C to C – which means the money a common man donates at a temple should benefit the common man. For this, we had presentations on fund management and taxation. From the money a temple collects, the management should be able to easily set aside readily available funds for medical help, book bank for children, and educational adoption such as book bank for children. Some of the topics were a revelation – security surveillance, physical security, incorporating technology for smooth running of temples such as face recognition and solid waste management.”
He added that the concept of green temples is close to his heart. “In the Ayodhya Case study, we learnt the idea of setting up solar trees that lend beautification to the temples and provide light. The Langar management system at the golden temple is unmatched. It is such a brilliant working system that no one goes hungry. The key takeaway for me personally was to see delegates from every part of the country and world, network, and exchange good ideas. From here on, we are aware that it will take time to implement change, but the genuine attempt was to sow the right seeds.”
RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH (RSS) CHIEF MOHAN BHAGWAT:
”A huge and extremely critical aspect of temple management is cleanliness because temples are a symbol of purity. Definitely, with the PM’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyan there has been a great effect on temples as well, however with the International Temple Convention we seek to achieve this on a deeper level in every temple in the world – small or big.
We need to pass on the legacy of temple service to the next generation for which education and awareness on temple ecosystems is important. In view of the same, we must strive to solidify every aspect of temple management whether it is hygiene, service or infrastructure – it all must be a robust and effective system for our youth to take forward for generations to come.”