Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Renovation Issues in TN Temples

Restoration Applications fall 80% due to HR & CE Apathy
Ancient Temples in Remote Locations struggle to reach the restoration applications to the HR & CE headquarters
HR & CE ignores the genuine need of repair works in several temples in TN
                        Brahmmadesam Temple near Ambai

A couple of years ago the Madras High Court order had placed a blanket ban on renovation in temples. Subsequently, the High Court directed the appointment of a committee to assess the extent of damage and approve the ‘essential’ repair works in HR and CE administered temples. Here is a look at what has happened since and the prevailing scenario.

In 2013-14, the number of applications that came to the Thirupanni leadership at the HR & CE headquarters numbered around 600. Since the High Court order and the subsequent setting up of a screening committee, this has fallen to around 100, an over 80% reduction in the number of renovation applications that have reached the HR & CE HQ.

The numbers indicate lesser amount of renovation works in temples. However, the reality on the ground presents a different picture. While on the one hand, remote temples with genuine need for restoration are finding it difficult to get their applications processed within a fixed timeline, on the other, renovation works are continuing in violation of the rules and without approval of the committee.

The process
The new process includes recommendation from archeological expert on the works to be renovated/repaired, approval from Zonal level heritage committee after a power point presentation by the concerned Joint Commissioner, approval from the State level heritage committee and then finally the go ahead from the HR & CE Commissioner.

Renovation Scenario at ancient temples
The temples have stumbled upon road blocks at various points. Right at the starting stage, a number of Executive Officers are finding it challenging to go past even the JC and the regional screening committee.  This was the case at the Jambukeswarar temple in Thiruvanaikaval where consecration took place recently (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/12/thiruvanaikaval-kumbabhisekam-2018.html). 

Two years into the renovation process, only minor works have been approved. A large portion will be undertaken only in 2019 with the EO having to secure approvals in bits and pieces breaking the whole renovation works into several small parts. 
      Thiruvanaikaval- Broken Wall, with Granary in the Background

Shortage of Executive Officers
Sources in the HR & CE say that the allocation from the HR and CE towards renovations has dropped dramatically from Rs. 416cr in 2015-16 to Rs. 70crores (excluding Palani) in 2017-18. A leading official also said that there are just 650 EO posts for 40000 temples and that out of these only 250 have been filled up. The rest have remained vacant for several years.

In the huge over 1000 years old Kailasanathar Koil in Brahmmadesam, near Ambasamudram (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/12/brahmmadesam-kailasanathar-koil.html), a temple managed for decades by a single archaka, approvals have been hard to come by. There are cracks in the towering 7 tiered Raja Gopuram at the Eastern Entrance and the entire structure presents a faded look with the previous Kumbhabhishekam having taken place 15 years ago. The huge outer wall is beginning to fall off on the Southern side. The temple houses some of the most exquisite stone sculptures. The archaeological expert had visited and submitted his recommendations in mid 2017. 

The case of shortage of EOs is best exemplified in the case of the Brahmmadesam temple. The then existing EO, who had almost 70 temples in his charge, had made some progress with the application of the restoration plans. When he was transferred, the replacement EO, who has a whopping 75 temples under his purview, has not taken charge for quite some time citing the case of excess temples in his charge, clearing endorsing the issue of shortage of EOs in HR & CE administered temples. This issue has left the temple and the restoration plans in limbo.

Brahmotsavam, the grandest festival that was celebrated in Panguni had been stopped four decades ago citing financial reasons. The huge tank was refurbished three years as a one off exercise thanks to the initiative of the archaka and the historical Theppotsavam was revived. But a lot more needs to be done to restore the temple to its ancient glory.

No approval for Samprokshanam
The Damodara Narayana Perumal temple in Thiru Kannangudi Divya Desam (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2015/11/thiru-kannangudi-dilapidated-state.html) had been in a dilapidated condition a few years ago. After completion of most of the repair works as early as 2016/17, the date for the Samprokshanam was fixed but twice it was called off by the HR&CE at the last moment. The consecration has been so delayed that even the new paint on the Raja Gopuram is now beginning to fade off. Frustrated at the indecision of the higher authorities, the EO of the temple has now gone on a long leave, say sources related to the temple. A temporary EO has taken charge at the temple but one wonders if he will be able to turn around the case of the pending Samprokshanam.

‘Golden’ Vimanam remains in ‘Plans’
Sowmya Narayana Perumal temple in Thiru Koshtiyur is another example of the renovation work coming to a halt a few years ago following the High Court order.  This Divya Desam too went through the process of screening committee approvals but the repair works have progressed at a snail’s pace in the last couple of years (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2016/06/thiru-koshtiyur-renovation-issues.html)..
Thiru Koshtiyur - Golden Vimanam Pending for a dozen years

The Balalayam at the Nambi Sannidhi and Ramanuja Sannidhi, among other Sannidhis, had been done four years ago but the Sannidis have remained closed, with the restoration efforts not gaining any momentum. Balalayam for the Ashtanga Vimanam had been done 12years ago. Gold plating of the Vimanam, using around 75kgs of gold has been on the plans for a long time now but that too has not taken off and has remained in the ‘plans’ mode. The temple has also not been able to secure gold in the required quantity. 

For a long time now, the devotees have not been able to have darshan of the Vimanam, Raja Gopuram and most of the Sannidhis at this temple. From the point of view of the priests, shutting down of so many Sannidhis for 4 years has also resulted in loss of Thattu Kaasu. It is hoped that the HR & CE and the Sivagangai Samasthanam will work together on this and take appropriate action.

Kurungudi - Pending court case delays Samprokshanam
At the Azhagiya Nambi temple in Thiru Kurungudi Divya Desam(http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/08/thiru-kurungudi-shiva-sannidhi_3.html), it is almost 15 years since the idol of Lord Shiva was moved out into a separate Sannidhi within the temple complex. 
                     Previous old look of the Kurungudi Gopuram

While most of the repair works have been completed including colour painting of the Raja Gopuram, the case pending in the court with the petitioners seeking the shifting back of Lord Shiva to his historical location next to Nambi Sannidhi in the inner prakara has meant that the Samprokshanam has been delayed beyond a reasonable period. 

The previous Samprokshanam had taken place 35 years ago in the early 1980s and it is unlikely the next one will take place without a solution relating to the issue relating to the Lord Shiva’s location.

Wrongful additions to Temple structures
TR Ramesh, President, Temple Worshippers Society  (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2018/02/tr-ramesh-temple-activist.html) has filed petitions in the High Court and sent several notices to the HR & CE against wrongful renovation works in temples in the last few years. 
While agreeing to the fact that the large number of “Thiruppani” works that were taken up indiscriminately by HR & CE Department in various temples has certainly come down, he is furious that the department has now begun to focus on building Kalyana Mandapams, rest houses and Kavadi Mandapams in violation of the rules, a case in point being a huge new modern Hall built inside the Oppiliappan temple, near Kumbakonam (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/11/108-divya-desam-thiru-vinnagar.html).

He is also unhappy with continuing violations by the HR & CE in some major renovation works including building a brand new Rajagopuram at the Krupapureeswarar temple in Tiruvennainalloor after demolishing the ancient unfinished heritage Gopuram which had images in granite embellished on it as well as valuable inscriptions.  Similarly a new Gopuram and large civil works were undertaken at the Annamalaiyar Temple in Valangaiman Village. All these have also not been approved by the High Court appointed committee. He points out that tenders relating to civil works have been executed in Suchindrum, Ettukudi and Samayapuram temples in violation of stay order of the High Court.
A new Raja Gopuram at Thiru Kolur
Ramesh says he will also be fighting the proposed construction of a new Rajagopuram at Vaithamaanidhi Perumal temple in Thiru Kolur Divya Desam, one of the Nava Tirupathi temples which too, he says, had not received the approval of the committee.

Writ Petition in High Court
PS Narasimha Gopalan Acharya, the Head Archaka at the Rajagopalaswamy temple in Mannar Koil, near Ambasamudram (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/03/periya-nambi-narasimha-gopalan-acharya.htmlhas just filed a Writ Petition in the Madurai High Court regarding the non appointment of members to the Heritage Committee resulting in non functioning of the committee thereby causing undue delay in approvals for renovation. 
He has said in his petition that a number of temples, where the case for restoration is genuine and dire, have been waiting for approval for a long time. Some of the temples even after obtaining the approval from Regional Heritage committee have not been able to start the repair works for want of approval from the State Heritage committee. Narasimha Gopalan says that he has received a reply from the HR & CE to his RTI query stating the state heritage committee had been dysfunctional for want of members.

Even the HR and CE officials at the respective temples, especially those in remote locations have been miffed at the attitude of the senior colleagues and their continued reluctance to move the papers to their higher authorities. Villagers are of the view that temples left in a dilapidated state will adversely impact the prosperity in the region and does not augur well for the nearby villages.

It is hoped that the HR & CE headquarters will look into the case of delayed approvals across all temples in Tamil Nadu and take necessary steps to clear the huge number of pending applications, where the restoration requirement is immediate. At the same time, it is also hoped that the HR & CE will ensure that no renovation work takes place without approval from the court appointed committee for the very essence of that order was to prevent tampering with historical structures and to allow only repair works that were ‘essential’.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

well said.We are struggling to do kumbhabishegam for Ambasamudram Aastheeswarar Temple. The permission is pending for the approval of highcourt directed Screening committee. please issue your suggestion for early approval.We are decided to perform kumbhabisheam in feb 2020 1st week.
mail - agastheeswarar1700@gmail.com, phone 04634 251882, Message 9444001596