Thanjavur: Art of Living temple event sparks furore

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Dec 7, 2018, 2:43 am IST
Updated Dec 7, 2018, 2:46 am IST
Nod to programme by the Art of Living in UNESCO protected structure draws ire.
The shed put up for the programme at Big Temple. (Photo: By special arrangement )
 The shed put up for the programme at Big Temple. (Photo: By special arrangement )

Thanjavur: A huge tent erected within the Brihadisvara temple compound in Thanjavur district for an upcoming Art of Living event has caused major furore among devotees, historians and residents alike.

According to The Art of Living, the event is focused around the conversation of Kashmiri Shaivism and all necessary permissions had been taken for the event from the Archaeological Survey of India, The 11th century Shaivaite temple, also known as the Tanjavur Big Temple, has been declared a World Heritage Site and one of the 'Great Living Chola Temples' by UNESCO and is being taken care of by the ASI since 1922.

 

It is a meditation programme and there will be no noise or music in the premises, to disturb devotees or the sanctity of the temple, said a representative of the Art of Living. "We have received required permission to conduct the event over 15 days ago. ASI and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department approved our request. The only conditions laid down were to not cause any damage to the temple or set up any permanent structures," he said.

Thanjavur is Ravishankar's hometown and he wished to have an event here. This isn't the first occasion when pandals are being put up of such a size. The Collector himself has conducted an event here, other private groups too, come and sing bhajans here often," an ASI official in Tanjavur said, speaking to Deccan Chronicle. he also said that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department recommended to the ASI to allow the event after a comprehensive letter was submitted to them.

"Such an event is absolutely allowed. When the 1000th anniversary of the temple was conducted, a bigger pandal was put. Concerts and dance events have happened too. There is nothing wrong in them doing so provided they do not obstruct the route of the devotees. Near the ASI office outside or away from the main sanctum is fine," said a historian.

The matter came to light when an independent journalist, Ar. Meyyammai noticed the construction of the pandal and posted it on social media following a visit to the temple. "The structure is to the left of the main sanctum, obstructing the entrance. No pandal this big has been erected, and definitely not for private persons," she said, speaking to Deccan Chronicle.

The issue may have risen due to Sri Sri Ravishankar's association with the BJP, some say. "Godmen like him have close ties with the BJP. This is why ASI, which is a central body, is giving in to their demands.

Irrespective of who is asking, a heritage site cannot be used as a venue for private events. The state is already struggling to maintain its temples and idols. If they give permission in such an iconic temple, such events will start mushrooming across the state," warns VCK leader and Tamil writer D Ravikumar."The ASI stopped giving such important landmarks even to film shootings as they would destroy the site. Some idols and structures were whitewashed, plastics thrown everywhere and sometimes even ancient sculptures were moved around. If a genuine discussion or meditation is about to happen outside of the sanctum of the temple, it may. If it disrupts the devotees, it's a problem," the historian adds. This isn't the first time Art of Living, has offended people because of the location chosen. In 2016, the National Green Tribunal slapped a fine of `5 crore on the establishment after an expert committee determined that the pollution caused at the World Culture Festival which was hung on the banks of Yamuna in New Delhi would take at least 10 years to restore.

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Location: India, Tamil Nadu, Thanjavur




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