Historians, archaeologists and devotees are up in arms against the renovation of Tyagarajaswamy temple, popularly known as Sri Vadivudai Amman temple, in Tiruvottiyur.
Temple authorities have removed granite slabs with inscriptions from the temple floor and are replacing them with rough granite. This ancient temple, classified as a ‘paadal petra sthalam’, contains the most number of inscriptions in this part of the country.
“Tamil saint and poet Vallalar had sung at the very spot where the idols of Arunagirinathar and Murugan were — both have been removed now. The temple is being renovated but its identity is being destroyed. The officials are rude whenever we question them,” said a devotee.
R. Nagaswamy, former director of the Tamil Nadu archaeology department, said, the temple could have originally been a brick structure that existed around the 7th century AD.
“Around 1020 AD, Rajendra Chola rebuilt it. The stones have been there for over 1,000 years. The expert appointed by the government for restoring the temples has not been consulted for the renovation,” he said.
The Tirupati temple had planned to cover Vijayanagara inscriptions with gold sheets but the courts dismissed the idea. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department had replaced the flooring in the Parthasarathy temple with granite but devotees objected to it, Dr. Nagaswamy said.
According to S. Swaminathan, author of several books on temples, the inscriptions serve as proof of our history.
“There are methods for the preservation of 1,000-year-old inscriptions. The stones have remained there for centuries. What is the need to move them now? Can an executive engineer replace a stone in the Taj Mahal?” he said.
T.R. Ramesh, president, Temple Worshipers Society, said a few slabs of inscriptions were broken when they were moved without adequate care.
“Damage has been done to not just the inscriptions but also to some Shiva lingams. The temple had 11 ‘ekadasa rudra’ Shiva lingams that are now in a shambles,” he said.
An official in the HR&CE department, which manages the affairs of the temple, said the stone inscriptions on the floor near the Durgai Amman Sannidhi in the Aadhipureeswarar shrine were removed so they could be reinstalled in a suitable spot. Similarly, lingams behind the Aadhipureeswarar Sannidhi were removed to be placed on a dais.
“The flooring in the temple is being redone,” the official said, adding “the inscriptions were placed wrongly on the floor, in the past. Usually, they are found on the walls of old temples. In order to safeguard the inscriptions, they are being re-installed suitably so the public can view them.”