Temples are places of pilgrimage, not tourist spots to be ‘beautified’ : Anil Dhir, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)

Vaishvik Hindu Rashtra Mahotsav (2024) Day 5 : Intellectual Movement for Hindu Rashtra

Anil Dhir, Convener, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Odisha

Ramnath Devasthan, Goa – 22 ancient mathas were demolished to beautify the famous Jagannath temple in Odisha. We went to court against this, and we were fined Rs 1 lakh. Temples are basically beautiful, why beautify them ? These are not tourist spots,to put up plastic trees and poles, and glam them up, they are places of pilgrimage.

Flower and fruit vendors, babas who sit outside the temples are all part of the ‘vernacular ecosystem’ (interdependent local system) of temples. It is not wise to remove them. The Jagannath temple has 2 Ratna Bhandar (jewellery repositories), one of which has not been opened for the past 46 years. This has collapsed. Now the newly elected government has instructed that the repair work has to be completed in just 7 days during Rath Yatra. This is not possible. In our view, it is important to keep the architecture of the temple intact, even if the wealth within is not recovered, said the Anil Dhir (Odisha Convenor, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage)

Dhir further said that on what basis are we going to become Vishwaguru ? After the excavations into Mohenjodaro, Harappa, no major research was done. Excavation is not required for research, other avenues also provide much evidence of our ancient culture, but there is no research about it. Now due to scientific progress, genetic history of people can be studied. From that, it can be realized that people have gone out from here in ancient times. This will be called ‘Reverse Invasion’. When the research on this comes out, it will be time to rewrite history.

How did a stone weighing 37 tons reach the top of Sun Temple in Odisha ? The answer to this is not yet discovered. Even if the construction was off by 1 inch, then the entire construction would have been wrong. There is a need for research on this type of temple culture.

Anil Dhir’s work through Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage

1. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has been awarded Rs 100 crore by the Central Government as a Center for Excellence and is set to receive another Rs 100 crore. The INTACH is the second largest organization after the Archaeological Survey of India.

2. In Odisha, 300 temples are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Temples older than 100 years are protected by the ASI. I have found 6,500 temples over 300 years old in 17 districts of Odisha and 15 thousand temples can easily be found if we do a search in the remaining 13 districts.

3. Mahanadi enters Odisha from Chhattisgarh. We surveyed about half of it (400 km) on both banks by bullock cart. 63 temples have been submerged in this river for the past 80 years. We have demanded that at least 2-3 temples should be recovered and rebuilt.

4. Archaeological Survey of India is a government body with old and capable people. It has accomplished a lot around the world. But now they concentrate on Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar etc, as they are obtaining funds from there. Today in Bengal, the number of destroyed (ruins) temples is almost one-fifth of the newly built ones. Old mosques are maintained with government money even if there are no visitors there. However one has to pay to see ancient Hindu temples. We should handover the legacy of our ancestors to the future generation .

5. Today many ancient stolen idols have been recovered. But they are lying with the Collector, Police, because there is no record about where those idols belong to. So we have started the work of recording all the details of idols in every temple.