Saturday, 12 April 2014

Bruce and his code for Tirupathi

Who has not heard of Robert Bruce, the hero of Scotland. Born Robert I (1274-1329), he is more widely known as Robert the Bruce, the King of Scotand, from 1306 to 1329. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland’s place as an independent nation, and is today remembered in Scotland as a national hero. However, there is one more Bruce and he is closely connected to the East India Company and British India. A British civil officer, this Bruce had a hand in drafting the first set of administrative rules for the Srinivasa or Venkataramana Temple in Tirumala. Unfortunately, he remains relatively unknown and even today mention Bruce and the majority of people link him to the heroic Scot King.
The Indian Bruce, as we will call him here, formulated a set of rules which came to be known as  Bruce's Code. This code, which operated for several years, is a set of rules for the management and administration of temples of  Tirumala and Tirupathi and it was enacted by the East India Company way back in 1821.
Bruce was the District Commissioner of Chitooor under which Tirupathi-Tirumala came. He drafted a set of  42 rules to ease the administration of temples. These rules were drawn from the existing customs and traditions practiced in the temple and  they did not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the temples.
The British found themselves the masters of  South India after they killed Tipu Sultan in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore War of 1799. Except for the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas, there was no other major power in south India.  The British found themselves ruling over a fairly large part of south India, including the province of Tirumala-Tirupathi.
The vast wealth of the temple and its huge income was a major attraction to the East India Company. The company decided to take over the management of the temple and Bruce, the then district commissioner, framed the rules. The main objective of the Bruce Code, as it came to be called, was to generate fixed revenue to the company and also to prevent misappropriation and mismanagement of temple funds. The rules or the Bruce Code were in force till 1842-1843 when Queen Victoria of England stripped the company of all powers to administer Hindu temples.
The Srinivasa Temple, till then, had been generously endowed with and funded by scores of Hindu Kingdoms, including the Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagars. After the Vijayanagar Empire disappeared in the mid 17th century (1665), the area of Thondaimandalam came under Muslim rulers including Golconda. When the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, extinguished Golconda in 1687, Tirupathi-Tirumala came under the Mughals. It was in 1710 that Thondaimandalama became a separate Kingdom and Sadatullah Khan became its first Nawab. In 1748, the Nawab of Arcot first assigned the revenue of the Tirupathi temple to the East India Company. In 1782, Hyder Ali of Mysore, captured the region but he did not interfere with the administration of the temple. In 1801, the East India Company took over the administration of the temple from the Nawab of Arcot.
In 1803, Bruce, the then Collector of  Chitoor, sent a report to the board of revenues of the East India Company showing the full account of the institution, along with details of pujas, expenses, and extent of lands. This report was known as Statton’s Report on the Tirupati Pagoda. These reports formed the basis on which the company controlled the temple till 1821. The report was accepted and the code was prepared on July 25, 1821 and it was in force for a little over two decades.
The Bruce Code makes for fascinating reading. It states that food offering were made to the deity six times a day. To pay for this, erstwhile rules had donated the revenues of 432 villages surrounding Tirupathi to the temple. When the temple came under the Sultans, the Nawab of Arcot and finally the Company, the offerings were reduced to three times a day-morning, noon and night.     
Between 1805-16, there were many instances and complaints about misappropriation and mismanagement of  temple funds and when they were brought to the notice of board, the East India Company passed Regulation VII of 1817 to check such buses. Through the regulation provided only superintendence and not management, the board interfered in almost all aspects of the administration.

Such interference in the Tirupathi temple continued till the Court of Directors in England strongly resented the participation of the Company in idolatry and ordered its relinquishment of their administration of religious endowments. This order was signed by Queen Victoria in 1842-43 when the administration of the temple was transferred to the Hathiramji Mutt, Tirupati. It was only in 1932 that the TTD was formed to administer the temple.


  1. Hi mam dis Basu Meti Msc in Electronic media .... Im trying to contact u ple send email thnk u

    1. You can contact us on for any imnformation. We will be only too glad to help you.

  2. Don't forget Sir Thomas Munro, who, as Governor of the Ceded Districts, registered the property rights of Tirupathi Venkataramana and his holdings such that even the post-1947 crooks ahve found it difficult to plunder as freely as they have other heritage temples. To this day, the first Parasadam at Tirupathi is known as "Munro Sadham"

    1. Yes, Mr. Aiyer, you are absolutely right. Though the shrine has riches, many remain untraced and this is what a recent audit has revealed. Jewels, gold, silver and ornaments donated to the temple by the Vijayanagar Emperor, Krishna Deva Raya, and others are missing.