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Temple guardian

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
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HERITAGE Former ASI Director K. K. Muhammed is spreading awareness about Bateshwar temples

K. K. Muhammed's job, in the capacity of Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is over. But he still has a lot of work to do,even after retirement. Pursuing academic work on history and archaeology, that he loves so much, he is also spreading the word through his talks.

Muhammed's 24 year long career in the ASI has been eventful but his work on the Bateshwar temples in Madhya Pradesh, was particularly special. And now he is spending some time talking about the challenging task of rescuing the 1300-year-old temple firstly from the dreaded dacoits of Chambal and then the mining mafia. And don't forget, his primary job was to restore the magnificent temple to its old glory, a task monumental because the structure was in ruins.

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How it happened

It's interesting how he convinced the dacoits to leave the temple premises and allow for restoration work to happen. Muhammed had to negotiate directly with the dacoits and one day he walked into the temple to find somebody smoking a bidi. Muhammed didn’t know that the smoker was the infamous dacoit Nirbhay Singh Gujjar . When he found out, “I told him that these precious idols like so many others would have vanished if he had not been around. I also told him of his lineage, which he didn’t know — that he belonged to the Pratihara dynasty that had once ruled that region.”

That’s how the man, all of five feet two inches, won over the dacoits. The next obstacle was the mining mafia. The mining work was, and still is, harming this priceless piece of heritage where he worked from 2004 to 2008. Not sharing details about his itinerary and reaching the site via different routes every time he went there, was how he kept himself safe. But his team members have been roughed up by the mining mafia.

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

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