Whether Nathdwara Temple of Vallabha Sampradaya is a public temple?
Tilkayat Shri Govindlalji Maharaj v. State of Rajasthan (1964) 1 SCR 561 where a Constitution Bench of this Court had to consider whether the famous Nathdwara Temple which is held in great reverence by the Hindus in general and members of the Vaishnava followers of the Vallabha Sampradaya in particular was a public temple. It was held that neither the tenets nor the religious practice at the Vallabha School necessarily postulate that the followers of the denomination must worship in a private temple. The Court observed that the question whether a Hindu temple is private or public must necessarily be considered in the light of the relevant facts relating to it as well as the accepted principles laid down by several judicial decisions, and it was said :
“A temple belonging to a family which is a private temple is not unknown to Hindu law. In the case of a private temple it is also not unlikely that the religious reputation of the founder may be of such a high order that the private temple founded by him may attract devotees in large number and the mere fact that a large number of devotees are allowed to worship in the temple would not necessarily make the private temple a public temple. On the other hand, a public temple can be built by subscriptions raised by the public and a deity installed to enable all the members of the public to offer worship. In such a case, the temple would clearly be a public temple.”
“Where evidence in regard to the foundation of the temple is not clearly available, sometimes, judicial decisions rely on certain other facts which are treated as relevant. Is the temple built in such an imposing manner that it may prima facie appear to be a public temple? The appearance of the temple of course cannot be a decisive factor; at best it may be a relevant factor. Are the members of the public entitled to an entry in the temple? Are they entitled to take part in offering service and taking Darshan in the temple? Are the members of the public entitled to take part in the festivals and ceremonies arranged in the temple? Are their offerings accepted as a matter of right?”
It was then laid down that the participation of the members of the public in the Darshan in the temple and in the daily acts of worship or in the celebrations of festival occasions would be a very strong factor in determining the character of the temple.