Encroachments, mostly houses, were demolished in Thakkolam town near Arakkonam in Ranipet in a three-day exercise that ended on Saturday, restoring the original space of the 11th century Chola era temple. Accompanied by a team of officials from the HR&CE department, Collector D. Bhaskara Pandian, inspected the exercise, which was undertaken on the directions of the Madras High Court. Officials said that the Sri Azhaguraja Perumal temple, said to have been built by Paraanthaga Chozha-I, was located on 2.3 acres, comprising a sanctum sanctorum, a pond, and other structures for many years before the sprawling temple premises was slowly encroached by locals by constructing houses. Over the years, 53 well-built houses have come up on the temple land, leaving only the temple gopuram. “The encroachers have occupied 45,160 sq.ft of land that belongs to the temple. We have retrieved every foot of it now,” said K. Fathima, Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), Arakkonam. Based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the court directed demolition of the encroachments from the temple land and ordered to bring the temple under the control of the HR&CE department. Subsequently, the district administration served notices to occupants of the temple land. In turn, they requested an alternative place for residence. The district administration has agreed to their request. Accordingly, each displaced family will get two cents of land in Nagarikuppam near Thakkolam town with basic amenities, like bitumen roads, street lights, water supply, storm water drains, power supply and garbage collection. Houses for these families will also be built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) scheme in the coming weeks.