Instruction will also apply when the administration of a temple undertakes consecration

A few weeks after controversy erupted over the manner of conservation at the seventh-century Adipuriswarar temple in Tiruvottiyur here, the State government has directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and Archaeological Department to seek advice from designated archaeological experts before taking up structural or decorative work that has an impact on the archaeological/heritage nature of a temple or monument.

Normally, the advice is indicated in ‘archaeological notes of inspection’ which are prepared after experts visit a given temple or a monument.

A communication sent by the State Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments Department last week to the HR&CE and Archaeological Departments stated that no such work be taken up without the notes.

The latest instruction will also apply when the administration of a temple undertakes consecration involving conservation, restoration or renovation.

It will cover temples which are over 100 years old or built even at the end of 19 century A.D.

In such cases, Executive Officers concerned should inform HR & CE Commissioner or Additional Commissioner (‘Thiruppani’ – temple work), giving details of the proposed work. The senior officials of the HR & CE department will, in turn, contact the designated experts.

In June, the government appointed K.T. Narasimhan, former Superintending Archaeologist in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), as consultant archaeologist/conservationist for the HR & CE Department and State Department of Archaeology. A month ago, a four-member committee of archaeological experts was constituted to assist Mr Narasimhan.

As regards the government’s latest instruction, an official explains that this has nothing to do with the controversy. The idea is to have a sound system in place for conservation.

Pointing out that the government is keen on approaching the subject of conservation in a comprehensive manner, the official says it is a matter of time before conservation of mural paintings in various temples is taken up.

This follows Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s announcement in the Assembly in May regarding the scheme on chemical conservation of the murals.

The government may constitute another panel which will advise the HR & CE authorities on projects of chemical conservation.

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