In light of last month’s fire at Meenakshi temple in Madurai, the administration of the famous Parthasarathy temple in Chennai, which adorns one of the earliest edicts in the city, took to fire-safety work. But the administration has now drawn flak from historians for its callous fire-proofing, resulting in the defacement of a part of the temple.
“The Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, draws huge crowds every day and is home to one oldest edicts in the city. The 8th century edict by the Pallava King Dantivarman is kept inside the sanctum of the temple. However, as part of fireproofing the temple, contractors have defaced a 500-year-old edict kept in the outer area of the temple,” said Venkatesh Ramakrishan, a Chennai based historian and author.
On one of the relatively younger (500-year old edicts), holes were drilled for wiring. Further holes were bored into the stone to place fire extinguishers. Stickers, boards and other notices also hide the edict and have destroyed parts of the inscription, Venkatesh added.
The wiring work which was done as a part of the Kumbabhishekam preparations in 2017, according to the historian, was done shoddily.
“Fire-proofing and electrical wiring for these big temples which even have ACs is mandatory. However, the temple authorities should have specifically instructed contractors to use those walls that did not have inscriptions. For a temple that holds a Pallavan era edict, they ought to be extremely careful. It is saddening to see this callousness,” he said.
The temple is managed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department which leases out contracts for temple maintenance to private firms.
According to Venkatesh, the problem can be tackled by providing a specific manual to contractors before they begin the wiring and fire-proofing work
“Workers should be given a manual where precious relics are mentioned. This will give them an idea on where to drill holes and install fire extinguishers,” he added.
Further, the renovation work that happened in the temple last year left some of the edicts in a worse state, he says.
“Some of the edicts, after they were removed to rebuild the outer wall, were kept back upside down. This happened before the Kumbabhishekam before which the temple shut down for a month for renovation. The edicts which are placed upside down cannot be read by the people who visit the temple. Some of the stone sculptures were even dumped inside the temple after the renovation work,” Venkatesh said.
The incident has led to outage among historians in the city who demand that temples manage their artefacts better.