Renovation Work Endangering Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple Structures, Says UNESCO Report

Renovation Work Endangering Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple Structures, Says UNESCO ReportThe corridors of Meenakshi Amman Temple

The renovation work recently undertaken at Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai has raised serious concerns for the stability and authenticity of the historic temple structures, said a UNESCO report.

The work at the ancient temple was against the principles of Agama and Silpashastras, the report says. The organisation’s fact-finding mission, which examined the nature and quality of physical interventions recently made to 10 out of 37 historic temples under litigation in Tamil Nadu following the Madras High Court order, said: “Reconstruction of the south and east corridors of potramarai kulam in the Meenakshi Amman temple is against the principles of Agama sastras where it is clearly recommended that old stone material needs to be used and reused until it has lived its life. It is also against the principles of Silpashastras. No drawing was approved by Muthiah Sthapathy, the chief Sthapathy of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments as per his verbal confirmation during consultation. Work carried out was also in contradiction with his report of 2006. The work was also in contravention of conservation principles followed as per the National Culture Policy of ASI and International ICOMOS Charters. The Hindu Religious and Charitable & Endorsement and temple trust of Meenakshi Amman Temple were not adhering to any systematic documentation, planning or phasing of works in the temple. “All works are being carried out in an ad hoc, leading to serious concerns for the stability and authenticity of the historic temple structures,” said the report.

Taking into account the cultural significance and value of the temple, the UNESCO recommended a comprehensive conservation management plan be prepared and implemented in a phased manner. “Works are to be strictly carried out under experts in the field only and not by contractors without experience of conservation. Strict adherence to recommendations by the ASI and adherence to conservation policies, charters and acts as required by government orders is essential,” said the report.

Meanwhile, the over 1,000-year-old Naganathaswamy temple in Manambadi village near Kumbakonam in the state, has almost vanished due to the apathy of the conservation mechanism. The stone temple built around 1016 CE in the Chola era has been pulled down in the name of renovation, claim heritage activists, saying the absence of a “conservation manual” added to the problem.