To facilitate six laning of NH 4 near Ambur

Residents of Ayyanur, about five km west of Ambur, thought of a novel but hi-tech idea of retaining a 300-year-old Amman temple when the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) decided to demolish it to facilitate the widening of the four-lane Chennai-Bangalore National Highway into a six-lane highway.

The original temple, Sri Aadhi Bethapalli Amman Temple, which housed the traditional stone idol of the temple, functioned from thatched premises. Villagers had modified the temple in later years, and as early as 1997, a ‘Maha Mandapam,’ an ‘Ardha Mandapam,’ a ‘gopuram’ at the entrance and a sanctum sanctorum was built and the ‘kumbabhishekam’ performed in 2000. Within six months, the ‘Maha Mandapam’ and entrance ‘gopuram’ of the temple were demolished by the NHAI to facilitate the four-laning of the Chennai-Bangalore NH. At that time, villagers reconstructed the temple with a new ‘gopuram’ (tower) atop the sanctum sanctorum. When the NHAI wanted to demolish the new structure to facilitate the six-laning of the NH last year, villagers decided not to allow the demolition but to relocate the temple using modern technology to a site acquired 40 feet away.

R. Moorthy, president of the renovation committee of the temple said that he got the idea of relocating the temple by seeing such structural relocations of buildings done in the U.S. on National Geographic channel. They hired a Haryana-based company which was professionally undertaking structural relocations.

On January 3, the company workers started the work on demolishing the basement of the temple structure, simultaneously taking measures to hold the temple intact by fixing jacks and a steel framework around the basement. As and when the basement broke into chips, jacks were placed in the broken portion to hold the temple, thus forming a network of jacks around the temple. Meanwhile, the villagers had built a new basement at the site where the temple is to be relocated.

While ‘puja’ was performed on Tuesday night for the last phase of relocation, the actual work of relocating the temple started on Wednesday by pushing the structure using jack screws. When the screw is manually turned, the structure moves a few inches. Again the process is reversed to pull back the rod which pushed the structure, and place a wooden block in the gap to further push the structure during the next operation.

Mr. Moorthy said that through this process, the structure could be moved for about eight to nine feet every day. “We hope to completely relocate the structure by Monday,” he said, adding, “once the temple is relocated, we will undertake the work of turning the direction of the temple using the same technology so that the temple is exactly east-facing.”

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