The HR & CE commissioner Veera Shanmuga Mani appeared before court and apologised.

Madras HC questions HR CE for UNESCO letter activists claim ancient architecture damagedImage: Nageswaran temple/
news Temples Friday, December 23, 2016 - 11:23

On Thursday, the Madras High Court asked the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR & CE) department to withdraw the “discouraging” letter they wrote to the UNESCO for overseeing the work of HR & CE department in the state.

The HR & CE commissioner Veera Shanmuga Mani appeared before the Madras High Court and apologised for sending a letter to the UNESCO claiming that there would be a “religious backlash” if the UNESCO oversees the work. 

The HR & CE chief has promised to withdraw the letter. The court has asked the HR & CE to bring back the UNESCO for helping them in the work.

Speaking to The News Minute, Rangarajan Narasimhan, a petitioner in the suo moto case, said, “The court has asked HR & CE to bring UNESCO back. The letter says that there will be religious backlash if UNESCO comes to oversee the work of HR & CE department in the state.”

He added that the letter was sent to the UNESCO on December 19, 2016. Moreover, he said, “UNESCO was called in for primarily three tasks: firstly to look at the temples that have already been renovated and find out if there are any issues with it, secondly, to make the department understand how the structures need to be maintained and thirdly, how to classify the temples in the state."

Asked about the work carried out by the HR & CE, he said, “90 percent of the work is illegal when they start with it and other than that, there are a lot of lapses even in the statutory requirements they are supposed to have. I have submitted all the documents to the court and asked for a CAG audit and a CBI inquiry."

Explaining further, he said that the trustees are supposed to initiate work in a temple but in 90 percent of the cases, the permission is not taken from the trustees or the priests of the temple. He believes that if the UNESCO comes into the picture, the irregularities of the department will be revealed.

Arvind Venkatraman, a heritage activist who has been observing the temple renovation work in Tamil Nadu, said that the Hindu Religious Endowments and Charity Board of the TN government is not doing its job properly. 

“Last three years, the renovation contractors who do the work in many temples in Thiruvottiyur, Kumbakonam and Thanjavur, are not even experts. For example, in the Kumbakonam Nageswaran temple, the renovation was done by someone who does pandals, he has no idea about what art or architect means,” he said.

Moreover, he pointed out that experts were never consulted: “There were experts who were former IIT professors or were archaeology experts but they were never consulted."

Arvind avers that the proper way to reconstruct temples is not to create a modern temple out of ancient architecture. He said, “The temples in South India were in pristine condition about 50 to 60 years ago. They need to be restored but most of the temples now want to do away with the ancient architecture. Temples that are 1500 years old have been vandalised and they need to be restored. But what happened was an whole scale renovation."


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