Friday, August 26, 2016

Standardised Procedure for implementation ,the urgent need

Can the Temple be saved?
A controversy is brewing on who is responsible for the mindless destruction of historic temples in the name of renovation. After hearing the plea , the Supreme Court is reported to make it mandatory to obtain permission before commencing the renovation work. The blame game starts instantly. HR &CE dept says the temples located in interior places do not follow the prescribed practices and the villagers take decision on their own by demolishing the old structure. On the other hand the villagers strike back saying the concerned officers never turn up to supervise the work.

By and large the work is taken up after getting consent from the executive officer of the temple. The problem starts only when the officer fails to ensure that the norms are followed. For example, there is a circular from HR & CE , banning the use of mosaic tiles inside the sanctum. It further insisted to remove the tiles even if they are already fixed. The question now arises as to whether the HR & CE has ensured the implementation of the circular fully! Have they conducted audits of the renovated temples?

 Nobody would prefer demolition of old structures as they know very well that it involves huge money and the new one can never reproduce the old glory. They are driven to such a stage by the negligence of the authorities for several decades. The penniless villagers remain  silent spectators even if the structure is embedded with vegetation and the long roots penetrate from top to bottom.

A learned scholar who has served the Archaeology dept is reported to have told that the presence of vegetation should not pose a problem that leads to destruction. We never expect such a statement from him who has widely travelled and possess good knowledge of our Heritage.

Penetrated roots breaking the wall
 Some photographs published here clearly show the roots uprooting the neglected vimanams and walls of the temples. Having remained silent for several decades, one can no longer watch the roof falling on the Main deity inside the sanctum.  In such cases, the demolition work is already done by the plants and the failure to notice the growth on time  can not be passed on to the villagers. When they seek permission from the concerned dept., the action plan should be drafted by the officer and given to the renovation committee members. Moreover it is highly important that he should closely watch the work at every stage. Violations, if any, should be stopped at that stage itself.

Numbered stones dismantled and restored in a Temple
There is a debate on dismantling and demolishing. Dismantling a structure is supposed to be carried out consciously by taking photographs of the original structure, numbering every stone and reassembling them in their original places. Careful pointing work is done to prevent the emergence of wild growth of plants in the gaps. This arrangement also prevents the inscriptions getting shuffled. Photos taken before and after undertaking such a work are given here for better understanding.
The above procedure can not be adopted if the entire structure, aged several centuries are built entirely with bricks where lime is used to bind them. It makes the deep rooted plants to pull it down easily. The bricks get crumbled if any attempt is made to rebuild the damaged portion. It is more dangerous to leave the vimanam which stands on the supporting wall which is already plagued by the extensive damage caused by the trees.

Unless the root is fully removed, there is no point in cutting a part of the tree whose root is hidden deep  as the half - hearted work will not solve the problem completely and the plant will start growing from the gap vigorously after the next rain . Villagers have made many attempts to kill the trees by spraying tree- killing chemicals but could not succeed. Hence , demolition is forced on them as they are not guided properly.

Chemically treated plant after a week 
 Recently an attempt was made to inject a chemical into the deep rooted trees that emerge from vimanams and walls. This exercise was found successful as the chemical simply killed the plant entirely within a week. Then it became easy to remove the plant from the root level without affecting the structure. However, it becomes imperative to close the gaps so that there is absolutely no possibility of the plant to grow again from the same place.The cost saved in this manner is really tremendous. At the same time it gives great satisfaction of restoring the old beauty without any alteration.

Plants fully removed after the process
HR & CE and ASI should look for development work done in this field and rewrite the standard procedure. More importantly, they should bear the moral responsibility to see the system in place which can give scope for easy implementation.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Plight of Elephants

There can not be a second opinion that the elephant is more associated with Hindu religion. Elephant headed Ganesa is one of the principal deities of worship. Manuscripts on elephant behaviour and treatment  are there. Thiruvanaikkaval , Anai malai,Thiruvadanai and Hasthigiri(Kanchipuram) are some of the places named after the elephant. Ever since the conflict began between Man and elephant, the wild animal is poached/captured and tamed to obey the orders.  The emperors formed squadrons of elephants to fight their enemies. A Chola King who fought the enemy by sitting on the back of his elephant and died ultimately is called "Yanai mel thunjia Devar".

Artisans have been fond of sculpting the figures of elephant in wood,metal and stone. The ten day temple festivals in Tamil Nadu include " Yanai Vahanam" , the deity seated on top of an elephant made of wood and taken in procession.

When Man found that the tamed elephant can do lot of work for him, he started to captivate them. They were used to drag long and heavy woods. Later, the temples were used to carry granite from far away places for the purpose of building temples. The wonderful Temple at Thanjavur is constructed fully with granite stones that had to come from quite a long distance. It is said that an inclined plane had to be built from a place called Vallam,some 3 km away from the temple to supply stones on elephant's back!

With the advent of modern transportation, elephants were spared from doing this job. In some major temples they were used to carry river water everyday to the temple and participate in festivals. Otherwise they are simply tied and left in a room with restricted movement. Not all Temples conduct gajapuja every day. On the other hand, the mahouts make them beg and receive money from the devotees. Strictly speaking, there is no need for an elephant to be present in the temple except at those places where,according to  the legend  the animal is said to have worshipped the deity.  

Both front and hind legs chained
It is estimated that as many as 28000 elephants are there in India of which some 3000 are captivated. Kerala alone possess 500 of them. Because of the maltreatment, 218 people are reported to have been killed in Kerala between 1998 and 2010, most of them were mahouts. Elephants gifted to the Temples have to be housed without restricting the animals too much. About 60 elephants that belong to Guruvayur Temple are there in an eleven acre land , 3 km away from the temple. Though Mahouts are deputed to take care of them, it is felt that the available area is inadequate to house 60 elephants.
In Kerala, the temple elephants are used to carry the idols in a procession after  the pujas. The Mahouts take advantage of the situation and receive money from the devotees. The poor animal has to undergo loud noises of Chenda and fireworks, long parades, flames held nearby, transportation in vehicles , walk on tarred roads under the scorching sun ,cruelty and work load. The mahouts carry a stick with a hook to beat the animal to obey his orders. Any resistance will result into chaining both front and hind legs  for a very long time. Lack of proper food,water and sleep make life miserable for the elephants. Pre matured deaths of captivated elephants  in the age group of say 40- 50 are reported.

Gone into the truck
The studies reveal that the elephant population has reduced by 50% in the last three decades. It is because of greedy poachers who hunt them for ivory. The Asian Elephant is listed by IUCN as "endangered" At the same time one should appreciate the efforts of Tamilnadu Govt to send the Temple elephants for rejuvenation camps. But the way the animals are loaded into the trucks appears to be cruel. Moreover the jumbos have to undergo a very long journey inside the vehicle which will certainly make them tired.

Encroachment of jungle areas by greedy farmers is also another reason why many elephant deaths are reported. They are killed mercilessly in electrical traps. Recently an elephant from the nearby forest was tranquillised and loaded into a truck with the help of a trained elephant as it "encroached"  into agricultural fields. While doing so it died because of injuries. Railway tracks that pass through jungle areas and ghat sections become the death traps for elephants.

Elephant lovers of many countries try to rescue the elephants from captivity by bringing them to their care centres , treat them with the help of veterinary doctors, nourish them and provide them enough space for movement.  Such an initiative has been made by Tree Foundation, an organisation who have set up their Elephant Care facility near Marakkanam on Chennai- Pondichery road. At the moment it houses three elephants brought from Sri Kamakshi Temple,Kanchipuram for better treatment . The chained legs were attended by doctors and they are reported to recover fast. Upon strengthening the base, the organisation plans to bring some more elephants from the temples for better care. But the question before us is: " Can the treated / healthy animals be released in wild sometime later to provide space for new arrivals?"  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Art is no more for Art's sake?

MET Museum,New York City
"Art is for Art's sake"goes a saying. When Art is dedicated to God, it becomes "Art for God's Sake".  There is a marked distinction between these two. The former is purely imaginary and in the later,  the imagination is within the boundary. The basic material used may be stone/metal/paper /canvas /wood or anything. Once it receives "Godly touch" we are permitted to admire, worship the art embedded in it. The rotten idea of stealing and selling to  a museum and dealers was cultivated by the rich countries in the last  five or six decades. There was a time when the idols/panels were not under threat from anybody. There was absolutely no necessity to safeguard these treasures day and night like a fortress as people showed lot of respect to them. The mean minded rich have corrupted the minds of innocent people by buying them for money. As a result the innocence has vanished at the cost of greedy behaviour.

Lord Nataraja ,MET Museum,New York
The Museums across the World indirectly encourage this illegal trade by buying the antiques and display them as their rich possession. Visitors to MET Museum New York can find many priceless art pieces of India  and one really do not know why the Governments of India and U.S.A do not object to this and arrange to send them back to their original places. It clearly shows that the Museums are allowed to exhibit them and make money through entry fee.

The Media is also to be blamed for keeping a blind eye on this issue and publish articles which in no way can prevent the thefts. On the contrary their presentation seems to be anchored on sensational news for  describing the theft in detail. When we raise a point to the editor of the newspaper, we seldom get any reply. It is same in the case of New York times also when the paper reported the theft of Indian idols. We give below the copy of the letter sent to the editor:
The Editor,
The New York Times,
New York City.
Sub: Investigative Journalism

Journalism in true sense is all about presenting News as it should be. It includes aggregating, writing, editing and presenting facts or events with an attempt to minimize analysis or interpretation. We have no doubt that you work on this principle with a mission of printing " All the News That's fit to print". For a Newspaper, holding such a noble mission to inform the facts to the readers, it so happens sometimes that some correspondents act over smart , forgetting the mission for which their Newspaper stands for. The attempt to present in a sensational way maligns the credibility of the paper whatever its intentions may be. Its social responsibility is thus eroded by this act and leaves a poor shadow on the editor.

My observation as NYT's failure to edit the correspondent's 'sensational' report that appeared in your paper dated 23rd July,2015 explains the above point. While reporting on the smuggling racket that involved numerous antiques from India, he has given a caption that appears to invite/educate more people towards the crime. Thinking that he has put on efforts to investigate the crime fully, he has given step wise process of how the crime was carried out by giving a ' flow diagram'. Moreover, the heading, '  How to smuggle a Saint out of India ' itself is irking. ( " How the Saint was stolen out of India" could have been the caption for his article.) For what purpose the common man is informed about the modalities adopted to smuggle out the icon from the temple?  What is the need for the reader to know about the price for which it is sold? Assuming that the fraud was exposed, it has taken more than nine years to come to limelight. Who is responsible for the failure to identify the culprits and punish them according to the law of the land?  Giving such a long rope merely encourages more criminals in this field. The ideal investigative journalism should look for answers instead of just pointing fingers based on Police report. When the journalism takes such a diversion, the entire story need not be narrated in order to make it sensational. The Press can simply report about the theft and leave the rest for investigation under the guidance of Law to avoid new entrants in the illegal Trade.
Sekar Venkataraman
24th July,2015
With the advent of Social sites on the Net, people have started sharing the photos of ancient temples. While doing so, some of them upload as many as 200 photos of each temple which includes the pictures of the Murthis. Our appeal against this practice has fallen into deaf ears! They still defend their action by saying that they enjoy the art involved and want others also to enjoy. The problem arises only when it reaches the wrong/ anti social hands. The anti social elements even damage the idols and carvings .

The latest capture of many stolen idols in Chennai should be a pointer to them. As long as there is no fool proof security to the sites, sharing the pictures will only help  to accelerate the process. While the Police is doing a good job in capturing the culprits, it should be noted that such captures are negligible  when compared to the number of stolen items