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Friday, May 24, 2024

ASI probes into ‘risks’ to world heritage sites

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is probing allegations of certain unauthorized activities reported from the vicinity (buffer zone) of the ancient Khajuraho Temples — a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Taking cognizance of a complaint by a Maharashtra heritage expert, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is probing allegations of certain unauthorized activities reported from the vicinity (buffer zone) of the ancient Khajuraho Temples — a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The quiet development follows objections by the Jalgaon-based Heritage Foundation Director, Bhujang Bobade, to the ASI Director-General, Madhya Pradesh ASI officials, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others.

Bobade said in his complaint that a group of Jain Temples that are in close proximity of the Khajuraho Temples have recently carried out certain minor renovations and used chemical/synthetic paints.

Bobade stated, “This poses a severe threat to the safety of the centuries-old Khajuraho Group of Monuments, comprising two dozen temples. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and accorded global protection. Surprisingly, not a single concerned authority has bothered to acknowledge my email complaints so far”.

The locals were taken aback when they witnessed painting and minor renovations being undertaken in December 2021-January 2022 on the equally ancient cluster of Jain Temples which are situated just outside the Khajuraho Group of Monuments but falling within the ‘buffer zone’ of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

“As per UNESCO rules, there is a minimum 300-metre ‘buffer zone’ around all such World Heritage Sites, where no such activities that can potentially harm the designated protected monuments are permitted. The Jain Temples here have apparently flouted the rules,” claimed Bobade.

Numerous individuals took to social media to post photos and videos of the facelift that has now left the Jain Temples with a sparkling white façade, barring the Parshvanath and Adinath Temples, which are a sharp contrast to the dark-greyish brown colour of the world heritage site beside them.

When contacted, the ASI Jabalpur Circle Head, Dr Shivkant Bajpeyi, said that the Jain Temples do not come under their jurisdiction and hence they don’t interfere in their activities.

Bajpeyi added, “However, after the concerns raised in certain quarters, we have sought a ‘Status Report’, which has been received. After studying it we shall examine further measures”.

The temple trustees vehemently denied having effected any repairs-renovation but admitted that the Jain Temples around the Khajuraho complex were given a makeover with a coat of fresh paint.

The temple trustees have vehemently denied having effected any repairs or renovations but has admitted that the Jain Temples were given a coat of fresh paint. They claimed, “ This is part of the regular maintenance that is carried out periodically, as required. This is not the first time and we have painted these temples in the past”.

When asked why the Parshvanath and Adinath Temples were spared the brush and paint, Jain said those two temples are managed by the ASI.

ASI officials in Delhi said that the JTPC has been demanding that the ASI hand over the remaining two (Parshvanath and Adinath) temples for proper upkeep, but that would not be possible on several grounds.

Now, with the ostensible blessings of a prominent Digambar Jain guru, Acharya Shri Vidyasagarji Maharaj, a new Jain temple is also being constructed, some 300-350 metres from the boundaries of the existing Jain temples, near the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.

The Acharya is revered by top politicians including the Prime Minister, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and other bigwigs across the political spectrum.

The Jain Temples are described as ‘live monuments’ with top religious leaders and commoners congregating or praying and celebrating festivals there.

Bobade cautioned that if the UNESCO rules are flouted, it could lead to forfeiture of the title of ‘World Heritage Site’, resulting in a huge embarrassment for India, and urged that prompt remedial steps be taken to protect the Khajuraho Temples.

Built during the reign of the Chandela Dynasty, the Khajuraho complex is the largest concentration of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, coming up over 11 centuries ago.

Originally, the site comprised 85 Khajuraho Temples sprawled across 20 sq. km, but now barely two dozen temples survive in a 6 sq. km area.

The temples are noted for their intricate, detailed carvings, symbolism, stunning erotica and expressions of ancient Indian art that continue to amaze the modern world.(IANS)

 

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