Monday, August 6, 2012

Restructure ASI

The Archaeological Survey of India's proposal to take over the Sthalasayana Perumal Temple at Mahabalipuram has few takers. The apprehensions are many and understandable. An archaeologist may be of the view that the take over will provide room for proper maintenance and preservation of the site by following their own standards. Unfortunately the ASI has not demonstrated its mission to meet the expectations. Maintaining a Temple is not similar to maintaining a park. ASI is known for putting up its blue board at the entrance, appoint some curators and watchmen at the site and seldom take care of the rituals.

The ASI should classify its activities based on the purpose for which the structures have been built. They can not equate a Fort/ Palace with places of worship. It is observed that both are treated alike as the organisation go by the age of the monument only. Hence the arrangements are similar whether it is a Fort or an excavated site or a Temple.

The next question that comes to our mind is whether ASI is keen on maintaining a garden or maintaining /preserving the site. A place of worship requires a garden inside its premises that  bears flowers, leaves,fruits etc which are used in the daily rituals of the Temple. What we find at ASI maintained Temples is a beautiful garden having a carpet of rich green grass all around and trees with unusable flowers. Though it may give a good look and please the visitors from abroad, it fails to serve the religious purpose for which the shrine stands.

An archaeologist may cite examples of Cambodian temples where the sites are protected from encroachment for a distance of 2 km. The situation here is different. If you try to remove the encroachments from the vicinity of the site, people gather and form an association and start protesting by blocking traffic on the road for which the Government succumbs. The politicians on the other hand are waiting for the opportunity to hit the central Government at the right time. They are also least bothered about the conduct of rituals and maintaining the Heritage.

Why not we propose to initiate the Education Dept to include lessons on Preservation of culture at school levels. The text books merely give information of who built the structure and when.  Is it not our duty to tell our children not to deface the walls and maintain the holiness of the shrine?  How many watchmen of the ASI maintained Temples have taken care to remain alert always and watch what others are doing? Are they not keen in going after the foreigners for their own benefits? Do they drive out the beggars who create nuisance to our guests from abroad?

It is very easy to advice not to use cement, steel etc for renovating the old monuments. The ASI should  desist wasting its resourses for maintaining the gardens inside the Temples. They should rather spend the money for plastering the structures with lime and extend support to other Historic Temples as well. They suggest not to use paints that may harm the structures. Instead they should demonstrate what chemical treatment can be given to root out the plants and trees that have come up on the structures. They should spell out how to kill the threatening trees in the towers of the shrines without disturbing the originality. ASI has a Science Lab in many regions. They can coordinate with the officials of the state board that governs the Temples by jointly arranging seminars with the help of reputed scholars in the field.

Without much talk on who has to govern the Temple at Mahabalipuram, decision has to be taken by which the glory of the Temple is preserved without compromising the traditional rituals.  Maintaining Red Fort and Mahabalipuram can not be one and the same. The ASI should take note of this before  taking over  any religious place in any part of India.Probably, restructuring the ASI to meet different needs is desirable at this stage.