Controversy
The Madras HC’s order came hours before the event was to begin at the Brihadisvara temple on Friday.
(Picture of temple taken by AR Meyyammai)

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered an interim stay on a two-day event which was organised by Sri Sri Ravishankar's Art of Living Foundation at the Brihadisvara temple in Tamil Nadu. The court's order came hours before the event was to begin on Friday, in response to a writ petition filed at 11 am in the morning. The Madurai bench has further ordered for the removal of the temporary structure set up to accommodate those attending the 'meditation camp' and adjourned the case to Monday.

Controversy erupted over the event on Thursday after pictures of the large pandal set up by AOL on the temple grounds began to do the rounds on social media. The event was supposed to begin at 6pm on Friday and over 800 guests were expected. Sri Sri Ravishankar who was to conduct a discourse of Kashmiri Shaivism has infact arrived in the state to attend the event. However, heritage experts and political parties condemned the Archaeological Society of India's decision to permit the private event on Friday and Saturday. Following this, protests broke out outside the temple on Friday morning and N Venakatesh, a resident of Kumbakonam filed a petition in court opposing the event. He pointed out that AOL had already been fined by the National Green Tribunal for 'damaging' the Yamuna river bank during an event in 2016.

The petitioner questioned why an offender was being allowed to carry out an event at a UNESCO world heritage site. In addition to this, he pointed out that it is a 1000-year-old temple and setting up tents could weaken its structure in addition to the threat of pollution at the site.

After hearing these arguments, the court pointed out that a 'meditation camp' could be held at a private hall and questioned why it was being organised at a temple. Apprehensions regarding fire safety were also raised. AOL's counsel claimed that such private event had been allowed on temple premises before but the state government denied this. 

Following this, the court placed a temporary stay on the event and reportedly ordered district authorities to ensure that the temporary structures be removed from the site.

Speaking to TNM, an AOL representative stated the event has now been shifted out of the temple. The foundation will be carrying out at a private venue named Kaveri Manadapam in Thanjavur.