Encroachments around the Sri Erumbeeswarar Temple near here along the Tiruchi-Thanjavur National Highway were knocked off on Thursday under supervision of Tiruverumbur Town Panchayat authorities, for retrieval of space for strengthening the ‘Kirivalam' pathway.

The front portions of over 60 houses were demolished in the operation spanning several hours, official sources said. A cement road measuring 20 feet wide with three feet spacing on either side will be laid to a length of 900 metres around the temple, a protected monument maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

According to local sources, the originally earmarked space for laying the cement path and creating greenery on either sides of the path was 33 feet. The authorities were reportedly facing difficulties in acquiring the required space due to political pressure, sources added.

Alongside strengthening the road, a park has to be developed, and seating and lighting arrangements must be provided by the town panchayat with the Rs. 43.87 lakh sanctioned by the government through the Tourism Department six months back.

The work could not be carried out since the election code of conduct took effect around the time the work was supposed to commence, official sources said, adding that the encroachers were given notices well in time to clear the space by themselves.

The Shivastalam on a 60-feet hill with a flight of granite steps has two prakarams, and the entire temple, and the mandapam at the foot of the hill features inscriptions from the Chola and the Pandya period.

The annual Brahmotsavam celebrated in the temple, also known as ‘Malai Kovil', is a major draw attended by thousands of devotees and tourists from far and near.