In the case of temples the endowed property vests in the idol; in case of the math, it vests in the math itself as a juristic person. The Mahant like the Shebait is the manager of the institution.
In the case of Vidyavaruti v. Balusami, (43 I.A. 320) the Privy Council spoke of the shebait and the mahant in these terms “called whatever name, he is only the manager or custodian of this idol or the institution. In almost every case he is given the right to a part of the usufruct, depending again on usage or custom.
In no case was the property neither conveyed to or vested in him, nor is he a trustee in the English sense of the term, although in view of the obligations and the duties vesting in him, he is answerable as trustee for mal administration”. So it appears that the legal position of both is the same.
However, the mahant has ample discretion in this application of the funds of the maths, for he is subject in the respect only to custom or usage. So offering made to a mahant are at his absolute disposition. But the mahant can not deal with endowed property in the absence of legal necessity; any more than a mahant can do.
There can be religious trust of a private character under the Hindu Law which is not possible in English law. It is well settled that under the Hindu Law it is not only permissible but also very common to have private endowments which though are meant for charitable purposes yet the dominant intention of the founder is to install a family deity in the temple and worship the same in order to effectuate the spiritual benefit to the family of the founder and his descendants and to perpetuate the memory of the founder.
In such cases, the property does not vest in God but in the beneficiaries who have installed the deity. The members of the public may not be debarred from entering the temple and worshipping the deity but their entry into the temple is not as of right. This is one of the cardinal tests of a private endowment. Radhakanta Deb v. Commr. Hindu Religious Endowments, Orissa”, A.I.R. 1981 SC 798],