ASI restriction on public access to thandava madi questioned

The Archaeological Survey of India’s restriction on public access to thandava madi (upper deck) of the Big Temple in Thanjavur under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act has annoyed social activists and the general public.

The thandava madi is a small pathway located above the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, which has double walls — inner and outer — capped by a single summit. Murals adorn the inner side of the outer wall. The inner wall too sports some murals and an array of stone sculptures in bharatanatyam postures.

There are openings at the centre of all four inner walls through which one can enter the cement flooring, presumably put up by ASI above the giant granite idol of Brahadeeswarar in the sanctum sanctorum, to have a glimpse of the corbelling technique adopted in the construction of the 60-foot tower.

Though devotees and the general public have been allowed to visit the temple as far as the sanctum sanctorum, access to thandava madi, which has mural paintings of the Chola and Nayak periods, has been denied. Further, access to a similar cirumambulatory pathway around the sanctum sanctorum has also been denied.

When social activist and advocate V. Jeevakumar sent a written petition to ASI seeking access to thandava madi recently, the Department turned down his request stating that his plea could not be considered as per the provisions of the AMASR Act and Rules and as per the policy of the department keeping in view the safety of the paintings.

It further advised the petitioner to visit the replica of the paintings displayed at the interpretation centre located on the southern side of the temple.

In the present technological era, restriction on public access to art works depicting the skills of the forefathers of the land is unacceptable, he says.

“One wonders if the ASI, which claims credit for maintaining monuments by adopting the latest techniques, cannot think of making arrangements at thandava madi to safeguard the murals and sculptures from desecration by devotees and visitors by erecting fiber glass enclosures along the circumambulatory path,” he adds.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 11:54:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/asi-restriction-on-public-access-to-thandava-madi-questioned/article32956317.ece

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