Trade Bandh at Tiruvannamalai

Tiruvannamalai

Traders observed a total bandh in this town today protesting the Archaeological Survey of India move to declare the Arunachaleswara temple here a monument of national importance.

About 5,000 persons belonging to all political parties and various service and non-governmental organisations, led by R. Muthukumaraswamy, president of the newly-formed Arunachaleswara Temple Protection Committee, took out a procession from the Rajagopuram around the four mada streets.  They raised slogans condemning the ASI move.

On the instructions of the Union Minister for Culture and Tourism, Jagmohan, and in exercise of the powers conferred under Sub-section (i) of Section 4 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, the Department of Culture, on September 20, issued a preliminary notification of its intention to declare the temple, an ancient monument on an extent of 24.35 acres, a "monument of national importance".

Any objection might be made within two months (before November 20) by any person and it would be considered by the ASI Director-General, the notification said.  Enquiries, however, revealed that if the objections received from various organisations and individuals were not accepted by the Centre, the next step would be issuing the final notification declaring areas up to 300-metre radius of the protected monument "prohibited and regulated" for purposes of mining operations and constructions".  The notification would totally prohibit any mining or construction within the first 100-metre radius, while in the 200-metre radius beyond, any such activity would be subject to ASI approval of the plan.

Though the superintending archaeologist of the ASI, Chennai circle, K.T.Narasimhan, explained here on Tuesday that in the event of the ASI declaring the temple a monument of national importance, it would not exercise any control over hundial collections or interfere with rituals including daily Poojas, the temple protection committee was not convinced.

Talking to this reporter, some of the members said that contrary to the existing practice, the temple authorities would be forced to seek ASI permission even for conducting the Karthigai Deepam festival or performing a Kumbabhishekam.

They were not convinced either by Mr.Jagmohan's explanation that the move contemplated was only a "declaration as a monument of national importance" and not a "takeover".