Mere renovation or repair works cannot reduce the archaeological importance of a heritage structure.

This was the verdict passed by the superintending archaeologist of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Chennai Region, G. Maheshwari, on the issue of Sri Sthalasayana Perumal temple, located in the world heritage site of Mamallapuram, losing its importance owing to repair works.

She was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the inaugural function of World Heritage Week celebrations at Mamallapuram on Monday.

Recently, when the ASI announced its intention to bring the ancient temple into its fold in view of its archaeological importance, it was opposed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Board and others.

They claimed the temple had lost its archaeological importance since renovation/repair works had been carried out on the temple in the past. When the temple precincts were inspected by a five-member expert team, constituted as per the directions of the Madras High Court, it was revealed that epigraphs on the temple walls were intact.

“The team has indicated this in its report submitted to the director general of ASI along with claims made by those opposing the move,” she said.

When her attention was brought to the continuation of urbanisation activities in the vicinity of monuments protected by ASI, Dr. Maheshwari said the ASI had never opposed minor repairs or modifications on existing structures near protected sites or monuments.

However, wilful violation of ASI regulations has resulted in several ASI-protected in Pallavaram and Kadaperi falling victim to encroachment. Efforts have been initiated to identify such encroachment using satellite mapping technology and efforts taken to protect the monuments for posterity, she said.

Further, steps have also been initiated to give more clarity to the rules and regulations laid down in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendments and Validation) Act, 2010, she said.

K.S. Kumaravelu, a retired staff, said that unchecked urbanisation and movement of heavy vehicles near Arjuna Penance, ‘butter ball’ and other structures on the small street behind the temple, had robbed the place of peace and tranquility, an ambience essential to relish the architectural splendour of these monuments.

At the function, Dr. Maheshwari honoured a dozen retired ASI staff.

A photo-exhibition of post-renovation stage of monuments in Mamallapuram organised by the ASI was inaugurated by the commissioner (in-charge), department of archaeology, Tamil Nadu, S. Vasanthi. A photograph of Mamallapuram village, believed to have been taken during the English colonial period, stood as a testimony to the urbanisation in the vicinity of the monument.