One of India's most high-profile Hindu temples said today it now accepts shares of listed companies as donations in a novel departure from the usual gifts of cash and gold.
Mumbai's Siddhivinayak temple, which Apple chief executive Tim Cook visited in May, allows generous devotees to transfer their stocks electronically to an account run by the religious site's trust.
"We have opened up a 'share and securities' option for devotees globally," trust chairman Narendra Murari Rane said, adding that the stocks would be converted into cash.
"The stocks cannot be used for trading purposes," Rane explained.
Hundreds of thousands of worshippers pray at Siddhivinayak temple, dedicated to the elephant-headed deity Ganesh, every day, including Indian cricketers, politicians and Bollywood film stars.
Situated in the south of India's financial capital, it is one of the wealthiest temples in India, receiving donations of around 750 million Rupees ($11.19 million) a year in cash, silver and gold.
As well as donations, Hindus also seek the blessings of their favoured gods by making religious offerings at shrines, such as fruit, incense sticks and flowers. Rane hopes Indians who like to invest on the Bombay Stock Exchange will be inclined to give some of their shares to Siddhivinayak in the hope that it will boost their fortunes.
"Many devotees who enter the Indian stock market want an auspicious start. Hence, they might seek blessings by promising to donate shares to the temple," he said.
The temple trust decided to pursue the scheme after another temple in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh last year became the first to accept stocks as donations, Rane added. The trust uses donations to finance charitable hospitals and schools for the underprivileged societies across India's western Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.