A fresh row is brewing at the Sabanayagar temple, also known as Thillai Natarajar temple, here, over recent constructions undertaken at the premises.
Historians and archaeologists are calling for declaration of the temple as a national monument and heritage site to preserve its antiquity, while Podhu Dikshitars, who are the administrators of temple, have expressed apprehension over such demands as they fear it would diminish their fiercely-guarded administrative authority.
The Dikshitars, who claim to be the direct descendants of Lord Siva or Thillai Natarajar, are administrating the temple. Only last year, a protracted tussle between the State and priests over temple administration ended with the Supreme Court upholding the rights of the Dikshitars.
The new controversy is as much about the way the temple property is being maintained as about new structures that have come up.
A conference of historians and archaeologists recently called upon the Director General of Archeological Survey of India to depute experts to the temple to be declared a national monument and later a world heritage monument by UNESCO. They felt that the temple was being maintained badly. They also regarded as unwanted the recent attempt to erect construction before the eastern gopuram.
However, Podhu Dikshitars stoutly opposed the suggestion of archaeologists and historians.
U.Venkatesa Dikshithar said, “We are not against declaring the temple as national monument and heritage site under UNESCO, but under the pretext of declaration, we will not accept the management of temple going into the hands of either Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or Hindu Religious Department.”
They also denied allegations of improper maintenance and damage to architectural structure. Rubbishing such charges, they point out that temples such as the Pandynayagam temple and the 100-pillar mandapam are being renovated to old glory. All these renovations are being undertaken with expertise of archaeological experts as per guidelines of ASI.
They also questioned the maintenance of temples under ASI such as Tanjore Temple and Gangaikonda Cholapuram and added that such places have turned into picnic spots rather than sites for worship.
However, Left parties want the government to take over the administration of the temple, though they are not opposed to the puja-performing rights remaining with the Dikshitars.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA K.Balakrishnan said, “Without disturbing traditional rights of the Dikshitars to perform pujas, the administration of the temple should be vested with any government body. The maintenance of heritage structure and properties should be handled by such institutions only.”
Source: The Hindu.