EO says temple not under ASI control and restrictions do not apply

For the past year, the Villianur Thirukameeswarar Kokilambigai Temple has been undergoing renovation. While temple authorities have consulted engineers during the construction, historians and epigraphists feel that an archaeologist should have been consulted as well, given the historical significance of the temple.

There are a number of inscriptions in the temple, the first of them dating back to 1014 A.D., but there is evidence to indicate that the temple could have been constructed in the 7 Century A.D., said epigraphist N. Venkatesan who hails from Villianur. “There has been some talk of using a sand blaster inside the temple to clean the stones, but if this happens, all of the temple’s inscriptions would be erased,” he said.

According to G. Vijaya Venugopal, historian, Ecole Francaise d' Extreme-Orient, inscriptions found in temples are a very important source of history, since it was common practice for rulers to put up their proclamations and taxation policies as inscriptions on the walls of temples. The southern tower of the temple is said to have been used by the French as a watch tower.

Another issue is a structural one. Since these temples are constructed using methods and materials available only in that period, before making any serious changes to the temple structure, unless an archaeologist is consulted, there are bound to be problems.

In Puducherry, unfortunately, there are no archaeological consultants appointed by the territorial administration, like that in Tamil Nadu. Earlier, there was an archaeologist working in the Museum, but that post has remained vacant for some years now. Since this temple does not come under the Archaeological Survey of India, it remains neglected, he explained.

The Villianur Temple’s renovation has been planned with a budget of Rs. 11.55 crore and is being done under the supervision of an 11-member committee appointed by the Public Works Department, with the help of M. Muthiah Sthapathy, Sasthric Temple Architect and Advisor, Executive Officer of the Temple N. Manogarane said.

Since it is not under the ASI control, there are no restrictions on the changes to be made to the temple. Many of the pillars that have been crumbling are being replaced by new ones. Even in the main hall, a section of stones have been removed in order to provide ventilation, Mr. Manogarane said.

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