Simhachalam Temple Trust Board chairperson and member of Vizianagaram royal family Sanchaita Gajapati said the pillar was temporarily removed for renovation.

The demolished three lanterns pillars
news Controversy Sunday, May 24, 2020 - 12:16

The demolition of the historic Three Lanterns Pillar in the heart of Vizianagaram town in Andhra Pradesh has triggered a row in the state, with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) accusing the ruling YSRCP government of 'petty politics'.

The pillar was constructed before India's Independence by the Vizianagaram royal family and was used to light up the street in the night. The pillar was located at a junction connecting three arterial roads in the town, which was commonly referred to as the Three Lanterns junction. It was demolished on Friday.

Taking to Twitter, Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu said, "Shocked to see Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy demolish the historic ‘Three Lanterns Pillar’ in the heart of Vizianagaram. This is one of the many deliberate efforts to erase the contributions of Ashok Gajapathi’s family to the region. Petty politics must never take precedence over history!"

Ashok Gajapathi Raju is a former Union Minister who had served in the Modi cabinet when the TDP was in alliance with the BJP.  He also belongs to the Vizianagaram royal family.

In response to Naidu's tweet, Ashok tweeted, "Thank you for your support and concern, Chandrababu Naidu. This is an effort to wipe out the history of the town and we must all stand together to oppose this. It is our duty to cherish and pass on our heritage and culture to future generations."

However, both senior leaders were rebuked by Sanchaita Gajapati, chairperson and hereditary trustee of the Simhachalam Devasthanam, who is also Ashok's niece. In March this year, Sanchaita was appointed as the chairperson and hereditary trustee of the Simhachalam Devasthanam, replacing Ashok Gajapathi Raju. The appointment had started a political row in the state then.

Sanchaita said that the pillar was temporarily removed for renovation work at the junction.

"It is painful that former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and former Union Minister Ashok Gajapathi should spread misinformation about Three Lanterns Pillar. The truth is that it will be restored after the renovation work is complete.   

“Further, Ashok Gajapathi and Chandrababu Naidu should explain why the Moti Mahal, built in 1869, was dismantled instead of being restored as a heritage site when Ashok was Chairman of the Maharaja Alak Narayana Society of Arts and Science (MANSAS) trust. Why was my grandfather Pusapati Vijaya Rama Gajapathi Raju’s history and legacy desecrated? Vizianagaram wants to know."

Sanchaita is the present head of the MANSAS trust and was involved in a public spat with her uncle in March this year.

Read: 'Why can't a woman head temple trust?': Sanchaita Gajapati counters row over her appointment