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CURRENT ARTICLES OF V. SUNDARAM (JANUARY 2010 ONWARDS)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PARAMOUNT PUBLIC CRY FOR PRESERVATION OF INDIA’S CULTURAL HERITAGE



V SUNDARAM I.A.S.

The beautiful Rajagopuram                    The cracks on the Rajagopuram
                                                                   two days prior to the collapse


There is a paramount public cry today for the preservation of India’s ancient cultural heritage. The Rajagopuram (is the mighty tower in front of the gateway to the temple) of Sri Kalahasti Temple at Kalahasti Town in ANDHRA PRADESH collapsed at 8:30 PM on May 26, 2010. This glorious tower is more than 500 years old and measures 135 meters in height. The main temple structure dedicated to Hindu God Shiva, has not been affected by the sudden collapse of the entrance tower (Rajagopuram). Fortunately there were no human casualties this time.



The debris of the collapsed portions of the Rajagopuram


The collapse of the Rajagopuram created panic among pilgrims, who blamed the negligence of officials and temple board members for the mishap. While the cracks became prominent in the past four days, it is learnt that narrow crevices had started appearing almost a month ago. According to sources, vibrations from bore-well digging in the temple vicinity directly contributed to the collapse. An eminent observer has said: “The digging has been going on in a relentless manner (with the full knowledge of an anti-Hindu and truly evangelical Government like that of YSR!) up to a depth of 500-600 ft”.

The Rajagopuram had been in trouble for over a decade with stones and clay falling off from the structure from time to time. A few years ago, a tourist was killed when a stone fell on him. Though civil society groups had complained to the temple authorities during the last few years about the front tower’s deteriorating condition, the latter did nothing other than carrying out some minor repairs sporadically from moment to moment.


The Rajagopuram, with seven storeys, was built in 1516 by the great Emperor Krishnadeva Raya who ruled from 1509 to 1529. This Raja Gopuram stood to the right side of the main temple and was a living testimony to the grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire


The Commemorative statue of Krishnadeva Raya

2009 saw the 500th anniversary of the accession of the great monarch Krishnadeva Raya to the throne of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1509. To mark this great historic occasion, the Andhra Pradesh Government had raised a commemorative statue in front of the Rajagopuram in Sri Kalahasti temple in 2009. I have presented above a photograph of this statue. Behind the statue we can clearly see the debris of the collapsed Rajagopuram.


Contextually and historically it will be very relevant to refer to the recent discovery of an exquisitely beautiful small metal Portrait sculpture of Krishnadeva Raya found at Varadaraja Swami Temple at Kancheepuram. I am presenting below a photograph of this statue of Krishnadeva Raya.

                 The statue of Krishnadeva Raya on the extreme left.

This exquisite metal sculpture of Krishnadeva Raya, a few inches tall, is found on a step leading to the Goddess Perundevi shrine. It was noticed by R. Nagaswamy, former Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department. Next to Krishnadeva Raya is a metal portrait of one of his two queens.


T.S.Subramaniam has described the statue thus: “The Krishnadeva Raya portrait shows him standing with folded hands, a sword tucked behind his left hand; he has a dagger too. He is wearing a tall, conical crown studded with diamonds and rubies.”


According to Dr. Nagaswamy these beautiful sculptures are a witness to the achievements in metal art during Krishnadeva Raya’s time.


K.A. Nilakanta Sastri has rightly observed: “Pre-eminent as a warrior, Krishnadeva Raya was equally great as a statesman, administrator and patron of arts. The grandeur of his court excited the warm admiration of many foreign visitors, and their description of the great wealth of Vijayanagar, its festivals, its military strength and its heroic king make eloquent reading.”

Sri Kalahasti is one among the Pancha Bhootha Shiva Temples –-- Shivalingams of Five Natural Elements. Shiva is worshipped in the form of Vayu Linga which represents the element of air or wind at Sri Kalahasti. This temple is famous for its Vayu Deva temple, which is the only shrine for the God of Wind in India. It was constructed in the 12th century by the Chola king, Rajendra Chola (reign: 1012 C.E. – 1044), Vayu is incarnated as Lord Shiva and worshipped as Kalahasteeswara.

                   Shri.Kalahasteeswara and Gnanaprasunambika

This temple is considered as the Kailash of the South or Dakshin Kailash. Saivaite saints of ancient Tamil Nadu from the first century onwards have sung devotional songs about this Shiva temple. The chief architectural beauty of this temple lies in the fact that the entire shrine has been carved out of the side of a huge stone hill. All in all, this temple is one of the most impressive Siva temples in the whole of India.

Multi-pillared Magnificence of the prakaram of Kalahasti Temple



This temple is said to be the holy spot where a forest-dwelling tribal hunter by the name of Kannappa, one of the 63 Saivite Nayanars, came forward with supreme devotion to offer both his eyes to cover the holes from which the blood was flowing from the Siva linga. Lord Siva showered his Grace upon Kannappa by appearing before him in person and stopped him from pulling out his own eyes. Lord Shiva then granted Kannappa mukti or salvation.

STORY OF KANNAPAN


Until about three decades ago, it was the practice of devotees to pass through the Rajagopuram after taking the bath in Swarnamukhi River. Alas! On account of the callous neglect of the temple authorities, this great noble structure has collapsed.


The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah has announced that the ‘Rajagopuram’ of the temple that has collapsed recently will be rebuilt with the assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). He has said: “We will approach the Archaeological Survey of India to rebuild the Rajagopuram in a scientific manner”. Expressing his grief over the collapse of the Rajagopuram at Sri Kalahasti, he has said: “An inquiry has already been ordered. It is a matter which has to be looked into. I don't have any ready made answers.” He gave this reply when he was asked by the press as to whether the negligence by the State's Endowments Department had led to the collapse of the Rajagopuram.

The Andhra Pradesh Government has formed a Committee of Experts to probe the reasons for the collapse of the ancient Rajagopuram tower. As thousands of pilgrims from all parts of India come to this temple for worship every day, the Kalahasti Temple earns an annual revenue of nearly US $ 22.50 Million and yet the temple authorities have not taken necessary steps to maintain this ancient and sacred tower.

This ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the Five Panchabhootha stalams (shrines or temples) celebrating Lord Shiva as the embodiment of the five primary elements, Wind being the element at the Sri Kalahasti Temple at Kalahasti; the other elements being Water at Thiruvanaikaval Temple near Tiruchirappalli, Fire at Annamalaiyar Temple at Thiruvannamalai, Earth at Ekambareswarar Temple at Kanchipuram and Space at the Chidambaram Temple.


As I have already explained in some detail above, the collapse of the ancient Rajagopuram Tower at Kalahasti has been caused by the criminal neglect of maintenance and upkeep of this temple by the Religious Endowments Department of Andhra Pradesh Government.


The Government in India after independence has shown nothing but indivisible contempt for India’s cultural heritage in the field of art, architecture, painting and sculpture. The Archaeological Survey of India(ASI) during the last ten years has degenerated into what I call The Archaeological Scourge of India (ASI). I am giving below some striking examples to show the nature and extent of organized depredations carried out by the Archaeological Scourge of India (ASI) in the name of preservation and conservation of ancient monuments.


Starting from the latter half of 2007, the Archaeological Scourge of India (ASI) undertook the task of renovation and restoration of the famous World Heritage Brihadeeswara Temple built by the great Chola Emperor Rajaraja CholaI between 985 AD and 1009 AD in the10th-11th centuries. Rajaraja Chola I ruled from 985 AD to 1014 AD. I am presenting below a photograph of this temple under ‘restoration’ which in my view led to different kinds of intended and unintended destruction of different aspects of this beautiful temple.





BRIHADEESWARA TEMPLE UNDER ASI DESTRUCTION IN August 2008






WANTON DESTRUCTION OF PRECIOUS ARTEFACTS OF BRIHADEESWARA TEMPLE BY THE ASI
http://janajaati.blogspot.com/2008/08/imminent-danger-to-thanjavur-big-temple.html

In the name of conservation many valuble inscriptions, pillars, manadapam, shrines and specimens of invaluable original art have been destroyed beyond repair and rendered beyond recovery leading to irreparable loss to the great Hindu heritage. The temple was apparently built like a jig saw puzzle. Each stone was weighed and balanced precisely vis-a-vis the whole complex structure; selected strictly according to agamas and shilapasastra and assembled like a mammoth jig saw puzzle. One has to know high level geometry and complex trignometry, material sciences and ancient temple architecture to understand the underlying principles of architecture governing the construction of this complex temple.


It is a fact of history that the entire gopuram was covered by Rajaraja Chola I by Gold leaf coating known as Veli. When Malik Kafur, the general of Emperor Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316) invaded South India in 1312-13, he not only destroyed two tiers on the ardha mandapam of Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur, but also vandalised many parts of the temple. This temple remained under disuse for centuries and was rebuilt by the later day kings in the 16th and 17th centuries. The British and French had used the huge ramparts of the temple as their garrison in the last quarter of the 18th century and the first decade of the 19th century.


Over the years from 1970 to 1994 I have visited this temple several times. I was shocked to see this temple in a state of siege by the ASI in 2008. In 2008 when the ASI dismantled many portions of the huge complex using the services of many untrained commercial contractors, who were totally unfamiliar and ignorant about the ancient methods of construction technology adopted by the Chola Emperor Rajaraja Chola I in the construction of this Temple. Consequently, while they were able to mindlessly dismantle many structures without any difficulty, yet they just did not know how to put them back together so that they could again become harmoniously beautiful parts of several patterns of the original whole as conceived by Rajaraja Chola I. This explains as to why there are piles and piles of wreckage and debris lying scattered all round the temple complex in the two photographs given above.


When I visited Thanjavur in August 2008, the Brihadeeswara Temple Complex it resembled a war torn zone as in Iraq or Afghanistan. The whole area around the temple had been reduced to piles of broken pillars and beams. This ancient temple, which withstood the test of time, and the ravages caused by many floods, rains and earthquakes for centuries, was getting destroyed every day by the Archaeological Scourge of India (ASI). I was very shocked to note the marks of granite cutters that had been used to remove the blocks of stone called "kumudappadai", the exquisitely beautiful lotus motifs that adorn the outside walls of the huge temple. These lotus motifs have been destroyed forever by the ASI. The following photograph graphically depicts the nature and extent of the savage destruction of the lotus motifs wrought by the Archaeological Scourge of India (ASI) through the use of stone cutters.



                       Obliteration of the lotus motifs by the ASI


Rajarajeswaram, more popularly known as the Big Temple at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, India, was built a millennium ago by the Chola Emperor Rajaraja I. The Big Temple is the living monument testifying eloquently to the multi-faceted glory and grandeur of the Chola Empire. It is a treasure-house of art, architecture, sculpture, painting, music and dance and several other aspects of the mosaic and tapestry of culture of ancient Tamil Nadu. The UNESCO has declared it as a World Heritage monument. It is completely under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).


What the Muslim General Malik Kafur could not achieve in the field of destruction in the 14th century, the ASI has been able to achieve in a record time! IF THIS IS THE FATE OF ONE OF THE MOST ANCIENT AND BEAUTIFUL MONUMENTS IN INDIA WHICH HAS BEEN DECLARED AS A WORLD HERITAGE SITE BY UNESCO, THEN ONE CAN IMAGINE WHAT WILL BE THE FATE OF THOUSANDS OF MONUMENTS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE ASI IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF INDIA!


During the last few years systematic vandalism has been let loose by the ASI within the sacred premises of this great shrine in the name of conservation. Millennium- old inscriptions on the temple walls, irreplaceable sources of authentic information relating to the Chola Period, are getting shattered into smithereens. Portions of the Northern circumambulatory mandapam (the circular hall), the upapeetam and the athishtanam of the Maha Mantapam (great hall or pavilion) as also the inner part of the Sri Vimana are being systematically destroyed in the name of restoration.


The circumambulatory mandapam was built by the Chola Emperor Rajaraja Chola I’s General known as Krishnan Raman alias Mummudi Chola Brahamaraya. The inscriptions on the walls of this Big Temple bear eloquent testimony to the oral orders issued by the Great Emperor. A good many inscriptions were etched on the pillars, walls and basement of this temple. Among these structures, only one pillar was slightly damaged during the invasion of the French and the British armies in the 18th century. However, fortunately, the later Maharatta Rulers, with great care and devotion, restored the pillar. Despite the ravages of time, the other pillars and also the roof-area of the Mandapam remained almost intact till the direct intervention of the ASI in 2007-2008. Alas, the pillars carrying these precious inscriptions, the cross-beams of the roof and also the ceiling stones have been broken to bits and thrown away by the ASI in the name of conservation and restoration!


The ancient and beautiful mural paintings on the temple walls of Tamil Nadu are getting either effaced or defaced by the callous and clumsy approach of either the concerned temple authorities or the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or the State Departments of Archaeology. I am giving below some instances of the ongoing process of destruction and vandalism of the ancient Hindu cultural heritage in this part of India.


In the first instance I would like to refer to the defacement of mural paintings in the Mannar Kovil Temple at Ambasudram, Tirunelveli District. This is considered to be one of the most important Temples in that district with its cultural and religious traditions dating back to earlier than 11th Century AD. The Mannarkovil Temple was built by Chera King Rajasimha in the 11th century A.D. for the Chola Emperor Rajendra (Ruler from 1012 AD to 1044 AD). It has an independent sub-shrine, belonging to the 13th century, devoted to the Vaishnavite saint Kulasekara Alwar, who spent his last days in Mannarkovil. It has inscriptions of the Chola and the later Pandya kings. It has three sanctum sanctorums.



Mannar Kovil Temple in Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu State



Effacement of the Murals in the name of Conservation



The above photograph depicts the vanishing legacy of mural paintings at the Mannarkovil Temple. We can see some surviving mural paintings juxtaposed with the whitewashed wall on the right where a ceiling-high painting of Lord Narasimha once existed. Shown below is a photograph of the since-effaced Narasimha painting, taken three years ago.


Mural painting of Lord Narasimha effaced and defaced


According to K.T. Gandhirajan, a specialist in art history, wonderful murals in the temples at Mannarkovil, Tirupudaimarudur, Idaikal and Kalakkadu, in Tirunelveli District have the rare characteristics of “the confluence of Tamil Nadu and Kerala schools of painting.” It is not therefore surprising that in all these temples what is special is that all of them have always had paintings on both walls and wood. Regardless of the surface, these murals have been destroyed by whitewashing.


During the last sixty-three years after our independence, thousands of mural masterpieces have been whitewashed out of existence for ever at the following temples:

a. Meenakshi temple in Madurai City.
b. Arunachaleswarar temple at Tiruvannamalai.
c. Vishnu temple at Tiruvellarai near Tiruchirappalli.
d. Siva temple at Patteeswaram near Kumbakonam.
e. Siva temple at Tiruppulivanam near Kancheepuram.
f. Siva temple at Vedaranyam.
g. Lakshmi Narasimhar temple at Sevilimedu near Kancheepuram
h. Sanjeeva Rayar temple at Iyengarkulam near Kancheepuram


All the above temples are administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Many mural paintings belonging to the period from 1600 AD to 1800 AD have been wiped out of existence in the name of renovation!!!


I have given just two examples of effaced mural paintings above. The fact of the matter is thousands of mural paintings in ancient Temples have been whitewashed out of existence in all the States of South India --- Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.



                               
The Original Bamiyan statue The Taliban Destruction in progress The Taliban Decimation     completed


In 2001, the Talibans in Afghanistan gave a death sentence to the ancient gigantic Buddha relics of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in these words: ‘All we are breaking are stones. These infidel statues are insulting to Islam and should be destroyed so that the infidels could never worship them again. These shrines of infidels should be destroyed forthwith and torn down’. Thus these Buddhist relics which had withstood the onslaught of centuries and ravages of nature for more than 2000 years were destroyed forever by the Talibans in just one day. The then UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL ENVOY, Pierre LaFrance, in Kandahar pleaded for the continued existence of these exquisitely carved, beautiful and gigantic Buddhist statues of Bamiyan. The Taliban rulers treated this request with utmost contempt and unconcealed hatred by ordering the destruction of those gigantic Buddhist statues forever.
 We don’t have to go to Kabul or Karachi or Islamabad to see the State-sponsored destruction of non-Muslim heritage structures or objects or places of worship. What happened at Bamiyan in Afghanistan is happening in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu today. Cultural and religious Hindu relics are getting destroyed everyday as part of high State Policy. Some months ago, human hands have brought down the massive and beautiful mandapa (granite stone pavilion) situated in the historically famous Varadharaja Perumal Temple at Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, which has with stood the onslaught of five centuries. This ancient temple was built by the Cholas in 1053 and it is one of the 108 divyadesams or the holy abodes of Lord Vishnu. It is located in that part of Kanchipuram which is traditionally known as Vishnu Kanchi. Vishnu Kanchi has been the home for a lot of famous Vishnu temples, including the Varadharaja Perumal Temple. The great Vaishnavite saint Ramanujacharya is believed to have resided in this temple.



Varadharaja Perumal Temple at Kancheepuram


Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple is a huge temple spread over a 23 acre complex. The earliest reference to this temple is in a Pasuram of Boothathazhwar, a Vaishnavite Saint, dating back to 600 AD. The temple began to gain prominence in the 11th century, during the period of the Chola Dynasty. Kulothunga Chola-I encased the rock and built a structural temple around the standing Vishnu in A.D. 1100. Later by stages, spread over a few centuries, this temple expanded with the construction of several shrines, prakaras (corridors) and gopurams (towers). According to Dr. Nagaswamy, Vijayanagar Emperor Krishnadevaraya (Ruled from 1509-1530) built the present sanctum sanctorum of Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple, the Vimana above it and covered it with gold sheet around A.D. 1525. Krishna-Devaraya’s successor Achyuthadevaraya (Ruled from 1529-1542) built the Kalyana Mandapa on the left side beyond the western entrance to the temple in 1535 AD. This Mandapa is known for its several hundred pillars with intricate carvings of horse-riders, dancers, musicians, and Gods and Goddesses. It is known as Nootru-Kaal Mandapam.








Nootru Kaal Mandapam built by Vijayanagar Emperor Achyuthadevaraya in Varadharaja Perumal Temple (God only knows when this will receive the sentence of sudden death!)

Apart from constructing the exquisitely beautiful Nootru Kaal Mandapam, Vijayanagar Emperor Achyutha Devaraya also built another Mandapa with a few hundred pillars, all hewn out of granite. This was used for conducting temple festivals in the past. Later, it was used as a Goshala, or cow shed. IT IS THIS MANDAPA THAT HAS BEEN PULLED DOWN NOW UNDER THE PRETEXT OF ‘RENOVATION’. This Mandapa was not touched in any manner even during the days of colonial English Rule. I am presenting below two pictures relating to the destruction of this Mandapa in Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Kancheepuram.

The Mandapa of the Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple being demolished.

When this Mandapam at Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple in Kancheepuram was getting destroyed, Dr. R.Nagaswamy, former Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department rightly said: ‘What is happening now is total destruction. They are not dismantling it. They are smashing it with a crane’. I fully endorse his view that it is ‘a thoughtless act of destruction and renovation. The Mandapa could have been cleaned easily, conserved and preserved. The entire Mandapa is in good condition…. The walls are in perfect alignment. It has survived for 500 years without tilting or developing cracks. Except that it has not been cleaned, it is in good shape’.


The Sri Varadharaja Perumal temple was earlier subjected to a bout of cultural vandalism (Dravidian Talibanism!) when the murals of Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi and other Gods in the Hindu pantheon were deliberately whitewashed over by the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE). The surviving paintings have faded or peeled away. They have not been preserved. Thus, the atheist communist moles in the state government are working in a planned manner for the total obliteration and extinction of the Tamilian temple heritage and ethos.

The main aim of such deliberate destruction of the Hindu Temple murals seems to be that the white-washed empty temple walls after the planned destruction of the murals can be used to paint Christian motifs like the Last Supper, Nativity, Jesus and Mary on the Temple Walls.

This sad story of State-sponsored destruction of the ancient Hindu temple heritage in Tamil Nadu will be incomplete if I don’t make a reference to the destruction of the 975-year-old beautiful Chola period paintings and sculptures at the 1200-year-old Siva temple of the Pallava period at Tiruppulivanam village in Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu. Shri T.S Subramanian reported on this destruction done by the HR&CE Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu in Saturday, Nov 08, 2008. It is a matter of ironical shame that at a seminar organized on the very same temple premises on August 27, 2007, archaeologists, epigraphists and artists had decided on measures to preserve the paintings and inscriptions in the temple.



Two 16-pillared mantapas are among the temple’s treasures that have been destroyed. One of the mantapas, which was commonly called ‘madapalli’ or kitchen, had Tamil inscriptions dating back to Kulotunga Chola III (1215 A.D.), the Telugu Chola Vijayakanda Gopaladeva, Rajanarayana Sambuvaraya and others. The other mantapa, called Alankara Mantapa, belonged to the 16th century Vijayanagara period.
EFFACED LEGACY: (Clockwise from top left): The prakara wall of the Vyagrapurisvara temple at Tiruppulivanam sans its frescoes that were sandblasted recently; one of the Chola frescoes as it existed, in a file image provided by the Archaeological Survey of India; pillars with sculptures at the temple, also sandblasted and disfigured.

This destruction has taken place during “renovation” that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department officials are undertaking. As part of this exercise, they plan to pull down a 100-pillared mantapa just outside the temple and “rebuild it.”

The Vyagrapurisvara Temple at Tiruppulivanam, near Uttraramerur, 95 km from Chennai, was one of the three temples in Tamil Nadu where Chola paintings existed. The others where they still exist are the Brihadeesvara temple in Thanjavur and the Vijayalaya Cholisvara temple near Pudukottai. (We don’t know when the Tamil Nadu Government sponsored anti-Hindu Dravidan Vandals will get to them)

When Shri T.S Subramanian and a photographer visited the temple on November 2, 2008 an earthmover was piling up the dismembered granite slabs of the Alankara Mantapa. The officials of the HR&CE Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu are behaving like the Talibans of Afghanistan.

In the main temple itself, sandblasting had been done on the southern, northern and western walls of the prakara, on the sculptures on pillars and on the ancient Tamil inscriptions — in violation of a State government directive against sandblasting for renovating temples. The inscriptions on the outer wall of the sanctum sanctorum and the sculptures stand disfigured.

The temple existed during the reign of the Pallava king Nandivarman II in the 8th century A.D. The Rashtrakuta king Krishna III, the Chola kings Parantaka I, Rajendra I and Kulotunga I, the Sambuvaraya chieftain Rajanarayana and the Vijayanagara rulers added structures to it.

What stood out were the Chola frescoes, painted perhaps during the rule of Rajendra I, on the northern prakara wall. Dr. A. Padmavathy, retired Senior Epigraphist, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, said the paintings were of Siva as Tripurantaka (riding a chariot and armed with a bow and arrows to kill the demons of the three worlds) and Nataraja, and of Dakshinamurti, Narasimha, and Vishnu in “ananthasayana” posture. There were murals of Raja Raja Chola’s teacher Karuvur Thevar and of princes, princesses, dancing girls, ponds with lily and lotus flowers and wild animals. THESE FRESCOES DO NOT EXIST TODAY. THE MANTAPAS, ONE WITH ANCIENT INSCRIPTIONS, ARE GONE.

When contacted, the Temple’s Executive Officer, S. Senthil Kumar, of the Talibani HR & CE Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu, claimed that “no paintings ever existed in the temple” and “no structure called Alankara Mantapa ever existed” and that “no sandblasting was ever done” and that only “water-wash and air-wash” were done. He added that the ‘madapalli’ mantapa was demolished long before he took charge of the temple eight months ago. However, informed sources asserted that the frescoes were sandblasted four months ago, the ‘madapalli’ mantapa demolished about six months ago and the Alankara Mantapa brought down a year ago.

In the last couple of decades, many valuable inscriptions in temples and other ancient monuments have been lost. At a time when preservation of historic monuments has become a hot topic, an expert voice is stressing the imperative public need to adopt a professional approach towards the task of preservation of ancient monuments. Some time back, Dr R. Nagaswamy, former director of the Archaeological Department, Government of Tamil Nadu explained very eloquently as to how invaluable and unique ancient monuments have been defaced in Tamil Nadu on account of the careless attitude of the authorities. Dr Nagaswamy had warned: “The murals, frescos, sculptures and other structures were made by highly sensitive artistes. In the name of conservation, they cannot be touched by crude workmanship.”

Dr Nagaswamy has also invited the attention of the Government to the problem of destruction of inscriptions in temples and public monuments. He has said: “In the last couple of decades, many valuable inscriptions have been lost, sculptures have been damaged and removed. There has been sand-blasting and reconstruction with cement in place of the ancient stone structures.” In this context Dr Nagaswamy has made the following three suggestions:

a. According to Dr Nagaswamy, we have to make available detailed documents, measured drawings, photographic data collections and other relevant materials to those who want to know the details of restoration and conservation work being done by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Such methods are being followed in developed countries such as the United Kingdom and France. They have science laboratories dealing exclusively with brick structures, murals, frescos, woodworks and paper arts.

b. Dr Nagaswamy says the government should publish the details of the conservation work proposed to be done in a temple or structure of ancient monument. This information has to be furnished to the press in an open and transparent manner. The government can invite suggestions from appropriate quarters. These valuable suggestions could be incorporated in the preservation methods. There should be no scope for unilateral decisions on conservation methods for ancient monuments.

c. Dr. Nagaswamy, who was instrumental in preserving the murals in Chidambaram temple, argues that one of the most important aspects of preservation relates to the fixing of responsibility. He says: “The officer in-charge of the work should be held responsible if destruction is caused to the historical monuments. Disciplinary action should be initiated against him. Otherwise cultural destruction will continue.”


Against all this background, I would like to invite the attention of Tamil Nadu Government to the four-pronged destruction of temple heritage taking place in Tamil Nadu with the full connivance and active participation of the Department of Religious and Charitable Endowments:

A. Mindless Destruction of Temple Pillars, Mandapams, Prakarams etc. taking place all over Tamil Nadu in the name of ‘Renovation’.

B. Destruction of Temple Walls and Pillars bearing ancient, precious and irreplaceable inscriptions of Pallava, Chola, Vijayanagar and Nayak Dynasties.

C. Paintings of Vijayanagar and Nayaka periods getting vandalized in temples under the cover of ‘white washing’ and such other routine maintenance works. Dr. David Shulman, an Indologist who has studied the mural paintings of Tamil Nadu has observed, ‘The problem is very urgent. If action is not taken immediately these treasures of Tamil Nadu, which are part of the national heritage will disappear forever’.

D. Many Tamil Brahmi inscriptions have already been destroyed by a mindless approach to the public issue of stone quarrying throughout Tamil Nadu.

I have given some examples relating to destruction of temples and monuments in Tamil Nadu. Let me now give one striking example relating to the destruction of an ancient Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh that is being caused by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).



Hemis Monastery in Ladakh


Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery (gompa) of the Drukpa Lineage, located in Hemis, Ladakh (within the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir). Situated 45 km from Leh, the monastery was re-established in 1672 after a lapse of nearly six centuries by the Ladakhi King Sengge Namgyal. The annual Hemis festival honoring Padmasambhava is held here in early June every year.


The courtyard of Hemis monastery


Mural painting in the Hemis monastery



A MURAL OF VIRUPAKSHA FROM HEMIS MONASTERY

According to Ladakhi Buddhist tradition, Hemis Monastery existed even before the 11th century. NAROPA, the pupil of the famous yogi Tilopa, is connected with this monastery. A translation of Naropa's biography was discovered in 1911 in Hemis monastery. It was translated by A. Grünwedel in 1916. (Nӑro und Tilo,: Festschrift Ernst Kuhn, München 1916). Naropa is considered as the founding father of the KAGYU-lineage of the Himalayan esoteric Buddhism. Hence Hemis is the main seat of the Kagyu lineage of Buddhism.


Like all schools of Tibetan Buddhism the KAGYU consider their practices and teachings to be inclusive of the full range of Buddha's teachings (or three yāna) since they follow the fundamental teachings and vows of individual liberation and monastic discipline (Pratimoksha) which accord with the Mulasarvastivada tradition of the Śrāvakayāna (sometimes called Nikāya Buddhism or "Hīnayāna Buddhism" ); the Bodhisattva teachings, vows of universal liberation and philosophy of the Mahāyāna Buddhism; and the profound means and samaya pledges of the Secret Mantra Vajrayāna.

What distinguishes the KAGYU from the other schools of Himalayan Buddhism are primarily the particular esoteric instructions and tantras they emphasize and the lineages of transmission which they follow.

The Hemis monastery is the richest and most famous Buddhist monastery in Ladakh for centuries and continues to be so even today. On paper this is supposed to be one of the ancient monuments under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which is responsible for its preservation and conservation. Thanks to the mindless and callous attitude of the Archaeological Survey of India-- may I say Archaeological Scourge of India—the once grand Dukhang or the main prayer hall of this monastery is in shambles. Two floors of this ancient monastery have been demolished, and the priceless statues and 'thangkas' are kept in cold storage. It is a public tragedy that the outside world knows almost nothing about the fate of the beautiful old Buddhist murals that used to adorn the inside walls of this famous heritage structure. The fact that this destruction has taken place happened in a monument protected by the ASI, right under its nose, and calls into question its very approach to the noble and gigantic task of preservation and conservation of ancient cultural and religious heritage in Ladakh.

According to Mr.Saleem Beg, Convenor, INTACH's JandK chapter,this is all the result of the ASI's casual attitude towards monasteries in Ladakh. It was Mr.Beg who was the first to discover the sad and shocking fact of demolition of Hemis Monastery. To quote the appropriate words of Mr.Beg: "The ASI has lost the confidence of the Buddhist monks with its shoddy, and ad-hoc repair work. In Hemis, and other monasteries too, there is much animosity between the ASI and the Buddhist clergy, leading to wanton destruction of traditional Ladakhi architecture and paintings."


RAVAGED HEMIS MONASTERY


What Mr. Beg pointed out in his anguished letter to the Director General of the ASI is worth quoting "When I reached there with a conservation architect, I found to my horror some 30 labourers demolishing the upper floor of the monastery. This was being done under the supervision of a village mason."

Tsewang Rigzin, a senior Buddhist Monk at Hemis and Secretary of its Managing Committee, has spoken in despair: "Repair and renovation of our monasteries is an ongoing process since we live and pray in them. Whenever we request the ASI to do it for us, we find it never goes to the root of the problem. It does nothing to preserve the murals either.”

This complaint seems to be well founded as will be clear from the following photograph relating to the restored murals at Hemis Monastery.


Jarring brightness: A mural at the Thiksey monastery, the right side of which has been 'restored' like a cheap roadside commercial poster!!

What is happening in the whole of India is a total Government assault on India’s Religious and Cultural Heritage in a wanton, uninhibited and unabashed manner. Even in the colonial days of British Raj, there was no such organised State assault on Hindu Temples and places of worship. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was established by Lord Canning, the British Viceroy in 1861. He appointed Sir Alexander Cunningham KCIE CSI, (1814-1893) as the first Archaeological Surveyor of Northern India. I am presenting below a copy of the Gazette Notification appointing Sir Alexander Cunningham to this post in 1861.




What led to the appointment of Sir Alexander Cunningham as an Archaeological Surveyor was a Scheme drawn up by him and given to the Viceroy Lord Canning for launching a detailed survey of the ancient monuments and other cultural artifacts in Northern India. Sir Alexander Cunningham defined the scope of the survey work in these words: “an accurate description, illustrated by plans, measurements, drawings or photographs and by copies of inscriptions of such remains as deserve notice, with the history of them so far as it may be traceable, and a record of the traditions that are retained regarding them”.

After his appointment as the first Archaeological Surveyor in December 1861, General Cunningham surveyed areas stretching from Gaya in the East to the Indus in the North-West, and from Kasi in the North to the Narmada in the South, between 1861 and 1865.

Unfortunately, his endeavours came to a sudden halt due to the abolition of the Archaeological Survey in 1866 by the new Viceroy Lord Lawrence. However, The Duke of Argyll, the new Secretary of State for India, made a strong recommendation to the Government of India in 1871 to establish a Central Department to tackle the archaeological problems of the whole country.

The Duke of Argyll also stressed on the need for conservation of monuments stating that it was the bounden duty of the Government ‘to prevent its own servants from wantonly accelerating the decay of monuments’. On his recommendation, the Government of India revived the Archaeological Survey of India by creating a distinct Department of the Government and appointed Sir Alexander Cunningham as the first Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). He assumed his charge as Director General of the ASI in February 1871. The Department was entrusted with the task of doing ‘a complete search over the whole country, and a systematic record and description of all architectural and other remains that are either remarkable for their antiquity, or their beauty or their historical interest’.
Director General of ASI (1871 to 1885)


Sir. Alexander Cunningham was given two assistants J.D. Beglar and A.C. Carlyle who were later joined by H.B.W. Garrik. Sir. Alexander Cunningham resumed surveys in Delhi and Agra in 1871; in 1872 he surveyed Rajputana, Bundelkhand, Mathura, Bodh Gaya and Gaur; in 1873, Panjab; between 1873 and 1877, Central Province , Bundelkhand and Malwa. To initiate the survey in a systematic way Sir Alexander Cunningham chose to record the Buddhist finds and monuments by plotting them on a map so as to understand the ancient trade routes.

The surveys of Sir. Alexander Cunningham Cunningham led to several discoveries such as monolithic capitols and other remains of Asoka, specimens of architecture of Gupta and post-Gupta period; great stupa of Bharhut; identification of ancient cities namely: Sankisa, Sravasti and Kausambi. He also brought to prominence the Gupta temples at Tigawa, Bilsar, Bhitargaon, Kuthra, Deogarh and Gupta inscriptions at Eran, Udayagiri and other places.

Starting his work as Archaeological Surveyor in 1861 and then serving in the position of Director General of ASI for nearly 14 years from 1861, Sir Alexander Cunningham retired in 1885. Between 1862 and 1884, General Cunningham brought out 23 volumes containing his personal descriptions and reports of Archaeological tools and investigations undertaken by him in different parts of Northern and Central India.

Each Volume embodied the results of a single complete tour, lavishly illustrated. In their entirety, these 23 Volumes of General Cunningham may be said to bring together the results of Survey of the Central and Northern parts of India, in which Sir. Alexander Cunningham had his assistants worked for nearly a quarter of a century. Western and Southern India were left quite outside his programme of Archaeological Surveys.

Nearly 14 years after Sir. Alexander Cunningham left India, Lord Curzon came as Viceroy of India in 1899 and functioned in that capacity till 1905. He was a great champion of India’s Cultural Heritage. It was he who was responsible for the passing of Ancient Monuments Preservation Act of 1904. It was a landmark legislation in the cultural history of India.
Lord Curzon (1859-1924)
Viceroy of India from 1899 to1905

Lord Curzon told the Secretary of State for India in London: “India is covered with the visible records of vanished dynasties, of forgotten monarchs, of persecuted and sometimes dishonoured creeds. These monuments are, for the most part, though there are notable exceptions, in British Territory, and on soil belonging to Government. Many of them are in out-of-the-way places, and are liable to the combined ravages of a tropical climate, an exuberant flora, and very often a local and ignorant population, who see only in an ancient building the means of inexpensively raising a modern one for their own convenience. All these circumstances explain the peculiar responsibility that rests upon Government of India. We are doing splendid work in restoration and conservation of ancient monuments now throughout India. And I really think that almost the most lasting external effect of my term of Office will be the condition in which I shall leave the priceless treasures of architecture and art in this country”. Lord Curzon’s work in this field was inspired by his love of beauty, a pious reverence for all that bore witness to the creative genius of perished peoples and forgotten Empires and that delight in breathing the breath of life into the dry bones of bygone days.

Upon the recommendation of Lord Curzon, the then moribund Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was again reorganized in 1902 with Sir. John Marshall as Director-General of Archaeology. He was just 26 years old at that time and he was to hold the Post of for the next 26 years. The crowning event of Sir.John Marashall’s tenure of Office as Director-General of Archaeology was the excavation of the Pre-Historic sites of Harappa in the PUNJAB and Mohenjo-daro in SIND between 1921 and 1928 which led to the discovery of INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION.

I would conclude this story with the truly sublime words of Lord Curzon which will continue to mock at Time, remaining forever valid and relevant—and imperishable:

‘‘Art and beauty, and the reverence that is owing to all that has evoked human genius or has inspired human faith, are independent of creeds, and, in so far as they touch the sphere of religion, are embraced by the common religion of all mankind. Viewed from this standpoint, the rock temple of the Brahmins stands on precisely the same footing as the Buddhist Vihara, and the Mohammedan Masijid as the Christian Cathedral. There is no principle of artistic discrimination between the Mausoleum of the Islamic Despot and the Sepulchre of the Christian saint. Whatever is beautiful, whatever is historic and whatever that tears the mask off the face of the past and helps mankind read its riddles – these and not the dogmas of a combative theology should be the criteria by which a responsible Government must be guided in its approach to preservation of monuments. I regard the Stately or beautiful or historical fabrics of bygone age as a priceless heirloom, to be tenderly and almost religiously guarded by succeeding generations; and during my administration of the Government of India, no one shall find me niggardly or grudging in the practical realization of this aim’.

To conclude in the clinching words of the indefatigable soldier for Hindutva and Hindu people, Shri B.R Haran: “Even while waging war with each other, Hindu Kings following the code of conduct enjoined by the Dharma Shastras, took care not to destroy temples, rob cattle, rape women and kill civilians and that is why even today, we are able to know our ‘true’ history, culture & civilization. Probably that could also be the reason as to why the foreign invaders, particularly the Islamic marauders and Portuguese Conquistadors, often focused more on destroying our temples and monuments, distorting our history, so that, this nation could be de-Hinduised and their alien Semitic desert religions could be established in this ancient land. The evil legacy of the foreign invaders has been faithfully followed by the local marauders, the atheistic Dravidian parties, who connive with the alien religious forces using Government power to destroy our temples and to de-Hinduise the state. Dravidian racists like Barathidasan, E.V Ramasamy and Annadurai have always said, ‘THAT DAY WE BLAST SRI RANGANAATHAN (BHAGWAN RANGANATHA OF SRIRANGAM) AND THILLAI NATARAJAN (BHAGWAN NATARAJA OF CHIDAMBARAM) WITH A CANON (ARMY TANK), WILL BE A GREAT DAY FOR US’. Now, DMK-Congress (Karuna-Sonia) combine is continuing this evil legacy. Unfortunately, an institution like ASI, which is supposed to protect the temples and its structures, is also being misused by the governments to destroy the splendor of our temples.”


The main political aim of the evangelical anti-Hindu Sonia Congress UPA II Government in New Delhi today is to make the Hindus of India completely forget their cultural and religious past. Everything is being done in underground subterranean manner to use the might of the Government of India to completely marginalize the Hindus of India in every sphere. Sonia Gandhi’s closest ally in this field is the rank atheist anti-Hindu, anti-Brahmin, Dravidian crypto-Christian M. Karunanidhi.



George Orwell (1903-1950) in his famous novel titled ‘1984’ envisaged a totalitarian world of 1984 (very much like the Sonia-led UPA Government in New Delhi and the Karunanidhi-led DMK Government in Tamil Nadu). He described how a morally corrupt government will maintain absolute power by systematically depriving its subjects of their identities and by denying them any hope of cultural legacy. Writing in the late 1940’s with the horrific examples of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin fresh in his mind, George Orwell clearly envisioned a dark society in which a people’s touchstones with the past could get pulverized in a systematic manner as a matter of high state policy. Like the Archaeological Scourge of India (ASI) in New Delhi and the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) in Chennai, George Orwell predicted that there would be a ‘Ministry of Truth’ where the official record of past events would be constantly tailored to suit immediate political needs. To use the exact words of George Orwell in this context: “All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re -inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.” George Orwell said that tyrants and dictators of the future would be guided by this policy in their political approach to a nation’s history: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” It is this philosophy which lies at the root of the planned destruction of all Hindu temples of India today. Two anti-Hindu political gangsters Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi have come together as Comrades-in-Arms for the total obliteration and decimation of India’s cultural heritage rooted in Sanatana Dharma.


Probably Walt Whitman (1819-1892), the poet of American democracy, had the correct total understanding of the crooked political vision of these political mercenaries-in-arms of post-Independent India in mind when he wrote trenchantly as follows: “While the members who composed it [any Democratic Party National Convention prior to the Civil War] were, seven-eighths of them, the meanest kind of bawling and blowing officeholders, office-seekers, pimps, malignants, conspirators, murderers, fancy-men', custom-house clerks, contractors, kept-editors, spaniels well-trained to carry and fetch, jobbers, infidels, disunionists, terrorists, mail catchers, pushers of slavery, creatures of the President, creatures of would-be Presidents, spies, bribers, compromisers, lobbyers, sponges, ruined sports, expelled gamblers, policy-backers, monte-dealers, duellists, carriers of concealed weapons, deaf men, pimpled men, scarred with vile disease, gaudy outside with gold chains made from the people's money and harlots' money twisted together; crawling, serpentine men, the lousy combinings and born freedom-sellers of the earth.”

Note: Anti-Hindu Evangelical pro-Islamic Sonia Gandhis and her grisly minions like Dr.Manmohan Singhs, Ambika Sonis and the like cannot be expected to have the grand vision of a Lord Curzon today in the field of preservation of India’s cultural and artistic heritage going back to the dawn of history!! In 2007, under the supreme dictatorship of Sonia Gandhi, these vermin conspired and plotted to destroy Ram Setu forever and failed in their dastardly attempt, thanks only to the timely and vigorous intervention of the valiant Hindu activists like Dr Subramanian Swamy, Dr S. Kalyanaraman, D. Kuppuramu and others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great compilation.....