ASI is eager to renovate the moat, but the civic body yet to hand it over

Will the moat around Big Temple be renovated? This question is in the minds of people of Thanjavur as renovation of the moat, filling it with water and introducing boating facilities are talked about every now and then.

While visualisation of such an improvement is pleasing, it is yet to become a reality. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is maintaining the Big temple built is eager to renovate the moat, Thanjavur Municipality is not handing over the property to the ASI.

“Although the municipality agreed to hand over the moat to ASI and passed a resolution in the council long time ago, real handing over has not taken place and only communication is going on between the municipality and ASI,” said ASI officials.

“The front portion of the temple can be improved and beautified when once the moat area is handed over to ASI. Merlons (brick walls that form fortification with gaps) can be renovated.

The moat has to be cleaned first and brick works renovated. Then we can think of filling it up with water and introduce boating facilities,” ASI officials said. Enquiries with the municipality reveal that the local body is yet to hand over the moat to ASI. However, steps have been taken to hand over at least one acre of land belonging to the municipality to the ASI so that improvements can be taken up, the municipal officials said. “This is in the process and soon the one acre land will be handed over to ASI,” municipal officials said.

The moat is intact on eastern, western, and southern sides of the temple. On the northern side, buildings have come up. The entrance to Sivaganga Park too is on the northern side of the temple. But on the eastern side, if the moat is renovated, it will add to the beauty of the temple, improve environment, and will become a tourist attraction with boating and other facilities, said ASI officials.

The municipality has considered various options such as handing over the moat on lease for 30 years.

In Vellore, it has been done like that. The ASI has submitted a proposal for Rs. 1 crore to improve the moat to the State government so that funds can be utilised from Tourism Department.

Moreover, V. Narayanasamy, Union Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs, who was formerly a Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, announced that Rs. 25 crore would be given by the Culture Department at the centre for improving moat and temple at the time of millennium celebrations of the temple in 2010. But the amount is yet to be received by the ASI.

The popular perception is that renovation should be done after overcoming all the hitches in the interest of the temple which has been declared as a world heritage monument.