HR&CE & ASI mute to demolition of temple heritage in Tamilnadu
by M Pramod Kumar on 29 Aug 2016 8 Comments

Namakkal district is one of the most prosperous districts in Tamilnadu with a rich history and heritage. After the decline of the Vijayanagara Empire, the Madurai Nayaks ascended to power here. The famous Namakkal fort was built by Ramachandra Nayaka. Namakkal city, which is the headquarters of the Namakkal district, is famous for two rock cut cave temples, namely, the Ranganatha Swamy Temple and Narasimha Swamy Temple.


Namakkal gets its name from Namagiri, the consort of Narasimha Swamy, who is said to be the Kuladevata (family deity) of the famous mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who credited all his mathematical work to the abundant grace of the Goddess Namagiri.


On the auspicious day of Krishnashtami, 25th August 2016, the people of Tamilnadu woke up to the shocking news that an 800-year-old Siva temple, the Choliswarar Temple in Tholur village of Namakkal district, was demolished and ripped to pieces using a bulldozer!


The Hindu elaborated the antiquity and heritage value of the demolished temple in its report (25 August):

“The Choliswarar temple at Tholur is located on the Namakkal-Mohanur Road. Its sanctum has an ardha mantapa and a mukha mantapa, and a pillared Nandi mantapa. There are shrines for Ganesa, Amman and Chandikesa. It has a beautiful Chandikesa sculpture. A 16th century Tamil inscription on an ardha mantapa pillar records the grant of oil and cotton to the temple to light lamps. There is another inscription in a mukha mantapa pillar.


“R. Nagaswamy, former Director, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, estimated that the temple, built by the Kongu Cholas, was “minimum 800 years old.” The Kongu Cholas formed a branch of the imperial Cholas and the former ruled the Kongu region comprising the present-day Coimbatore, and part of Salem and Namakkal districts in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries C.E.”


The temple is under the control of the State Government’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department. Heritage activists allege that the demolition was carried out on the recommendation of an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India.


A committee was set up by the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) during its earlier tenure (2011-2016) for making recommendations for restoration and renovation of dilapidated temples. On May 25, 2015, K. Moortheeswari, Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeologist Survey of India (ASI), inspected the Choliswarar temple.


Ms. Moortheeswari inspected the temple along with an officer from the HR&CE, Ms. Selvi, and sent a report to the Tamilnadu government recommending dismantling and reconstruction of the temple. The report suggested that:

“…plenty of vegetation is seen all round the main shrine” and that the veneering stones on its outer walls “are disturbed and dislocated all round due to the strong, solid roots of the trees on the terrace.” Seepage marks were seen on the inner walls of the sanctum, ardha manatapa and mukha mantapa. A mukha mantapa pillar had been broken and provided with support.


…therefore, the temple must be conserved immediately and its foundation checked since the walls were out of plumb and had cracked in many places. The temple should be given a strong foundation. Reconstruction is inevitable…


The whole temple should be carefully documented and dismantled. Numbers should be given to the stone members. After dismantling, the temple could be reset with most of the old stones which were in good condition…”


Dr. R. Nagaswamy, one of the most respected archaeologists of Tamilnadu, lambasted the recommendation for dismantling the temple submitted by the ASI officer. He said that a temple should not be dismantled just because vegetation had grown over it and its walls were out of plumb. According to him, a temple should be dismantled only when there is a clear danger of its collapsing. The angry scholar remarked that “There are hundreds of temples overgrown with vegetation. Should all of them be dismantled? … The HR&CE Department kept quiet when the temple was demolished.”


What is unfolding in front of our eyes is yet another sordid chapter of systemic apathy, criminal negligence and mismanagement of temples on the part of the HR&CE and ASI. In an earlier article published here on Vijayvaani (11 August 2016), I had written about the collapse of the temple towers of two famous temples – the 136-feet Rajagopuram of the famous Srikalahasti temple and the Shivaji Gopuram of the famous Srisailam temple in Andhra Pradesh due to the negligence of HRCE and ASI in carrying out timely renovation and conservation work. (See


There is a writ petition pending in front of the Supreme Court filed by the late Swami Dayananda Saraswati challenging the constitutionality of the HR&CE and objecting to its disruptive interference in temple administration. This latest case of the Namakkal temple demolition further strengthens the argument against HR&CE.


It is appalling to see that these two government departments which are supposed to preserve, protect and promote such heritage monuments are presiding over the demolition and destruction of heritage temples in Tamilnadu. It is equally sad to note that there is not even a whimper of protest yet from Hindu organisations.


Imagine a recently constructed mosque being demolished in a Muslim locality by the ASI or a Church being ripped apart by a bulldozer, not to speak of heritage structures of these communities. The minorities in India receive massive funding from the State and Central Governments for renovation of their places of worship and there is no interference from the Government either in their functioning or administration.


Why should Hindus continue to suffer such discrimination silently? It is high time that Hindus rise in protest against such discrimination and also take ownership of their cultural heritage.  

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top