Centre plans to reopen ASI-protected temples

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New Delhi: While controversies continue to rage over the Gyanvapi Masjid, the Martand Temple and the Qutub Minar, among others, the government is considering bringing in legislation during Parliament’s Winter Session to reopen the Archaeological Survey of India-protected Hindu temples that are situated at various heritage sites across the country.

Discussions are on to amend the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958. Under that law, “ancient and historical monuments, sculpture carvings and other similar objects, archaeological sites and remains are protected and preserved. The archaeological excavations are regulated and are of national importance”. Apparently, the sites where Hindu temples have been situated from ancient times are “non-controversial”. The arguments being provided by some ASI officials are that these temples need to be reopened as they “require regular maintenance”.

 

Recently, a religious event chaired by J&K lieutenant-governor Manoj Sinha at the eighth-century protected site of the Martand Temple in south Kashmir sparked a huge row. Mr Sinha had participated in the Navgrah Ashtamangala pooja at the ancient sun temple. The L-G went on to describe the event as a “divine experience”. The ASI, however, denied issuing any permission for the religious event. The Martand sun temple was reportedly destroyed by Sikandar Shah Miri, the sixth sultan of the Shah Miri dynasty of Kashmir. Several earthquakes further ruined the ruins and remnants of the structure.

 

An official in the Union culture ministry, speaking on the issue, felt that the Hindu temples which are situated in forts and in other areas were “disintegrating” and the only way to “preserve them was by resuming religious events in those structures”. He went on to say that even though these structures were being protected by the ASI, “they were disintegrating rapidly”. In his view, “the temples can only be restored and maintained by resuming regular religious events and involving local residents”. He claimed that in the forts of some Hindu rulers, such temples “exist” and “are in desperate need of restoration”. The official said that the “replacement of damaged idols with new ones” was also being considered.

 

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