After a century, ASI starts removing sand from Konark Sun Temple 

It will take three years for the whole process to be completed

September 09, 2022 07:36 am | Updated 07:36 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

The Archaeological Survey of India began the process of emptying the sand for repairing the vulnerable portion of the Konark Sun Temple from Thursday. File.

The Archaeological Survey of India began the process of emptying the sand for repairing the vulnerable portion of the Konark Sun Temple from Thursday. File. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A century after the British had filled the Jagamohan (assembly hall) of the Konark Sun Temple, a world heritage site, with sand to prevent the structure from collapsing in Odisha, the Archaeological Survey of India began the process of emptying the sand for repairing the vulnerable portion of the structure from Thursday.

A special puja was performed before commencing one of the most challenging tasks the ASI had ever undertaken. Sand evacuation begins after years of consultation, scientific research and scanning the structure with modern technologies.

“We have started the process of the removal of sand from Jagamohan from Thursday. It would take three years for the complete evacuation of sand from the structure,” said ASI Superintending Archaeologist (Bhubaneswar Circle) Arun Malik.

The ASI is erecting a working platform for the work and checking of the structural stability of the 13th century temple. A tunnel will be created from the western side at a height of 14 metre to reach out the sand. As per the plan, the sand and debris would be loaded into a motorised trolley, a gantry crane would download the taken-out sand to the ground level and the trolley with the sand and debris would go out of the premise.

According to the engineers, temporary support would be given to the structure during the gradual removal of sand. In the end, fabricated stainless steel beam would be fitted inside the Jagamohan as a final support.

Observing that the Konark Temple structure was crumbling, the British created a wall inside the Jagamohan and filled it with river sand presuming that the sand would start taking the load in 1903. It was the best curative measure available at that time.

However, the sand settled down not fulfilling the objective of supporting the structure. Instead, the sand load exerted a lot of pressure on the side wall. So it was necessary to take out the sand to preserve the structure. It is to be noted that the main Konark Sun Temple had already collapsed.

Work in progress

“There is a gap of 17 ft from the top Jagamohan while the sand is believed to be filled up to 19 metre. As we progress on the work, we will get to know about the condition of the sand and the interior walls,” said Mr. Mallick. The height of the Jagamohan is 130 feet (39 metre).

According to the ASI, a long pending challenging task of removing of sand from the Jagamohan of the Sun temple, Konark has been taken up. “The project is being executed after the approval of the Director General of ASI. For successful execution of work, IIT Madras and the engineers of the State have been involved for rendering technical advice to the ASI,” said the apex conservation agency.

“Opinions have also been obtained from the experts including renowned archaeologists, engineers and architects through seminars regarding the removal of sands from the inner side of the Jagamohan. After that only, the ASI is going to evacuate the sand with a simultaneous structural repair of vulnerable portion. After completion of the work the esteemed visitors of the globe will be get an opportunity to have a glance of the temple,” said ASI.

During the sand removal, the tourist movement inside the Konark Sun Temple premise would continue as usual.

Konark is known for its intricate stone carvings which attracts tourists from all over the world. The temple was granted the World Heritage Site status by the UNESCO in 1984. The ASI has been carrying out conservation works after the site was handed over to it in 1936.

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