New building construction close to the heritage site Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple, Tamil Nadu invites court intervention!!

When we think of the iconic monuments in India, images of the Taj Mahal, Ajanta Caves, The Great Stupa at Sanchi and the Sun Temple of Konark, among others, flash across our  mind. But there are thousands of amazing historical treasures and heritage sites  lying across our country and each one of them is a treasure of historical value and grandeur. Among them, the Hindu temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu is  an amazing heritage site and recently it drew the attention of the media people over the illegal construction work going on near this site.

11th century AD, Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple, Tamil Nadu

Above image:  Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram, a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva , Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu was built by Rajendra Chola in 1035 AD It was  a part of his new capital, this Chola dynasty and this temple  is similar in design and style to the older 11th century, Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur about  about 70 km (43 mi)  from here.  Though  smaller in size, it is more refined than the Thanjavur Temple. Both these Chola temples are among the largest temples in South India and examples of Dravidian style temples.

The main temple dedicated to Shiva is based on a square plan and a distinctive feature here is the  reverential display of other Hindu deities such as Vishnu, Durga, Surya, Harihara, Ardhanarishvara, and others in the Hindu Pantheon. The sanctum/garbagriha and the other parts of this temple follow  an east-west axis just like the big temple at Thanjavur. The temple is well-known for  its  beautiful bronze sculptures, artwork on its walls, the depiction of Nandi and the scale of its tower. The temple being active, there four puja rituals are done daily.
Shivarathri during the Tamil month of Masi (February–March) and  Thiruvadirai during Margazhi (December–January) are  major festivals here. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 2004, along with the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur and Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram near the temple city of Kumbakonam. They are collectively  referred to as the Great Living Chola Temples. ....................................
Shiva's bull -nandi 11th century AD, Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple, TN
As per provisions in the  Ancient Monument and Archeological  Sites and Remains (AMASR) section 2, act 1858 construction of any structure within the specified space around  the monument is illegal and will invite court action. The construction of a multi-story building complex within the protected area (in this case 100 meters from the outer boundary of the monument) from the famous Brihadeehvara temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram in Ariyalur district is a shocking news to the historians and monument lovers. The foundation for the structure fall roughly 77 meter away from   a UNESCO world heritage monument that is being visited by people in thousands daily. The  wanton and illegal structure, if completed, will obstruct the view of the temple, heritage conservationists say. Section 19 of the act provides powers to the central government to remove such illegal and unauthorized structure if it violates such provision. The main features of the new amendment act of 2010 are the creation of a “prohibited area” 100 meters around every national monument where no construction, public or private is permitted, “regulated area” 200 meters beyond the prohibited area, where any construction requires permission of a newly constituted National Monuments Authority. 

Quite shocked and irked, a group of conservationists and heritage lovers wrote a memorandum to the District Collector, Chief, ASI, Chennai Circle  and also to the Conservation Assistant, ASI, Thanjavur Sub Circle, seeing their immediate  intervention and action on the proposed illegal construction. Besides, the group also approached the police and the state government Revenue officials for their intervention in this  serious matter. A local resident took so much pain and filed a PIL (public Interest Litigation) in the Madras High Court to take up the case shortly. In the follow-up, the ASI office, Thanjavur Sub Circle had sent a notice to the person who  is constructing the structure. Media reports claim, the builder has a plan to construct a multi-story hotel for the visiting tourists that include many foreigners and researchers. 

There are countless bad apples in our country in the form of real-estate developers whose eyes are ever glued on profit-making  in construction business, no matter  where the  sites are located.  Encroachments and illegal construction close to the monuments are happening, particularly in urban and semi urban areas across the country on a large-scale. The crux of the matter is, the builders violate the building acts with impunity. Part of the reason is the penal provisions in the AMASR Act for endangering ancient monuments  are  not stringent enough to provide effective deterrence. Further, no immediate action is forth coming from the authorities if the are violations near the heritage sites. Consequently, due to  the increased pressure of habitation, especially in urban areas, protected monuments and sites are  getting hemmed in from all sides. The end result is it affects their safety, security and aesthetics. In some cases, it causes structural damages. The most unsavory result is the beauty of such monuments  is obstructed.  The AMASR Act was substantially amended in 2010 to strengthen several of its provisions
to safeguard the monuments. 
 Ref: The Hindu dated 12th February, 2019:  ''Conservationists oppose new building  in the temple's vicinity''.