Do you know what makes architecture different from a building? It is the capacity to express! Architecture is an expression of an idea while the building is merely a structure built on economic principles. Where there is no expression of Idea, no matter how much colors, shades, lights, techniques, and capital you invest into it, it cannot be styled as an Art.
Similarly, Hindu Temples and Monuments are not just hybrid constructions; they are symbols expressing the scintillating ancient glory of this land. They make us aware of the intellectual, material, moral and spiritual advancement of the ancients. Similar to the cyclopean remains or the pyramids of Egypt, Hindu Architecture is a social creation; the accumulation of the centuries; the offspring of the great Hindu Civilization; the deposit left behind by our ancestors, and the remain which sings the saga of heroic retaliation against those barbaric invasions.
They are not just open historical museums but they also serve the purpose of sacred places imparting spiritual knowledge of certain metaphysical concepts, the purpose of which is to enable the devotee to more easily internalize the ultimate Truth. Thus preserving and cherishing them is essential to conserve the cultural identity of this nation.
However, in recent years there had been several cases reporting the vandalism or robbery of monuments all over the country and thus in Tamil Nadu also. As per data, due to the lack of proper security and management for Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu, more than 1,200 ancient idols are supposed to have been smuggled out of the state. In June 2020, Several idols were found damaged inside a temple at Kavilipalayam in Tiruppur City; In July 2019, in the Tiruvarur district 25 idols and sculptures at the Periyanayaki Amman Temple were destroyed which included those of Lord Murugan, Periyanayaki, and Kala Bairava; In April 2021 eight idols were robbed from Aatkondanathar temple, in Iraniyur and numerous incidents to mention. But these instances only created headlines for a few days and uproar for few weeks, later everything got back to normal and again the same loop continues. But the damage, these incidents brought cannot be repaired.
According to Article 51A(f), it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture. The Constitution thus, not only brings an obligation on the state but also a duty on every citizen of this country to value and preserve the rich heritage of the culture of this country, which goes without saying that it includes temples, arts, sculptures, and scriptures. However, it is the sorry state of affairs that the Government has miserably failed in its duty not only to protect the places of national importance but also the properties of temples, such as idols, lands, etc. Therefore, the Directive Principles of State Policy must be directed towards the protection of the ancient monuments and Idols and thwart all attempts to damage or smuggle them.
Finally, the Madras High Court has taken some insightful steps against this. A Bench constituting Justices R Mahadevan and PD Audikesavaulu directed the State of Government and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to formulate a 17-member Heritage Commission within 8 weeks to identify scrutinize all the structures, monuments, and temples with historical or archaeological importance present within the state and to supervise their restoration and further maintain the same. They issued seventy-five directions for the protection of the identified monuments. The committee shall also act as an advisory body to the Mamallapuram World Heritage Area Management Authority.
The Court ordered District Level Committees to prepare a list of monuments that fall under the definition of ‘Antique’ take photographs and computerize them. And no structural alteration of such structures shall be done without the sanction of the Heritage Commission.
The order also says that the Archaeological Survey of India shall conduct a field survey of antique temples which are more than 100 years old and estimate the damage done and take steps to restore the structure according to its conservation rules to its former glory within six months and after having scanned and photographed all this should be kept as an official record for the public scrutiny on the website of the Chennai ASI Circle.
Regarding Temple Funds, the Court said that the funds of the temples shall first be utilized for the maintenance of temples, conducting temple festivals, payment to its staff including the archakas, oduvars, musicians, folklore, and drama artiste. I also directed the state government to allocate funds for the protection and preservation of the ancient monuments declared under the State Act.
Moreover, these places are not just pieces of art that you can appreciate but these are hallowed institutions made to help devotees concentrate their energies on the supreme source of Knowledge and divinity. Therefore, temple music, rituals, tradition, everything matters. Thus to help temples serve their purpose the court has ordered to appoint enough number of qualified and eligible archakas (Hindu Priests) for each temple and ensure that the daily rituals are duly performed. Also, an adequate number of Oduvars well trained in Thirumurai and Battargal in Divyaprabandams for each temple and musicians accustomed to the temple tradition should be appointed to conserve the temple singing tradition. Moreover, it has been ordered to ensure that Thevara paadasalai and Prabhandha paadasalai are established in each saiva and vainava temples to impart education regularly.
However, only time can provide the implementation report card of this order. But currently, this step can be seen as a comforting prospect for Hindus, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu; who are witnessing the alarming state of the slow decay of shrines due to systemic negligence.
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