Srirangam Ranganathar temple - Will HR & CE impose restrictions to prevent fall of tower similar to Kalahasti, AP?

 Since the collapse of masonry sunshade (Kodungai) from the height of roughly 31 ft above the street level around 2 am on the 5th of August (a few days ago) on the first tier of 131 ft tall 9-tier East gopuram  - Sri Damodara Krishna gopuram  at Srirangam Ranganathar temple, Tamil Nadu, devotees have been concerned about the status of the Rajagopuram and its safety and structural stability. The east entrance gate of the temple is barricaded and people are not allowed to go near the tower until the restoration work in progress is fully completed. 

Rayagopuram,, Srirangam, TN

Srirangam Old Mottai / Rayagopuram,

Above image: Mottai Gopuram, Srirangam, TN:  When the Ahobila mutt Pontiff  took steps to raise the Rajagopuram  with 13 tiers to more than 230 feet. Till 1983  there stood an incomplete gopuram called Mottai or Roya gopuram Gopuram.  At that point of  time only a few temples had 11 tiers; mention may be made of  temples at  Tiruvannamalai. Srivilliputhur and Thirukovilur.  Dimension of the Base of the tower  is 133 feet by 97ft........................ 

With respect to the 236 ft tall Srirangam Rajagopuram -the tallest in India,  it was built atop a 300 year old well-built stone structure . Having confirmed  the safety of the old stone structure and the reliability of the foundation, with confirmed approval, the construction of a new tower with 13 tiers  commenced in May 1979 at the initiative of the late 44th pontiff of  Sri Ahobila Mutt Srimad  Azhagiya Singar Jeer Swamigal.  It took eight years to complete this difficult and laborious work in March 1987 though  cracks appeared  during the final phase of construction in 1984 .

Expert committees comprising civil engineers conversent with load-bearing dynamics, etc  studied  the structural stability of the Rajagopuram in 1986, 1987 and 1996. They suggested periodic observation and updating of the dimension of various cracks on the gopuram at different points of time was a necessity. 

Despite stabilization of cracks presently a comparative study of the present data with the past one would be useful. They also suggested that  with the use of new tools like  Ground Penetration Radar (GPR) one could understand the structural stability of the Rajagopuram by inspecting foundation below the old stone base. This will help keep an eye on the the washout of subsoil due to leakages and lateral movement of foundation blocks.  The Hindu dated 18 Aug. 2010 reported 'according to the report by the civil engg. dept.,of IIT, Chennai 'there is nothing to alarm.' 

East gate Mottai gopuram srirangam, TN

Above image: Keezha Vasal Mottai Gopuram, Srirangam Ranganathar temple, TN -  The growth of vegetation -  peepal and other plants on the Keezha Vasal Mottai Gopuram  one of the oldest gopurams in Srirangam, made the local people  criticise the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department for poor maintenance work. The growth of vegetation and wild grass, if not cleared would damage the structure. Despite complaints made by local  people months before, no action was taken  as of April 2022.  The 600-year-old structure remains uncared for and needs immediate attention and this has necessitated the periodic inspection of all 21 gopurams to assess their condition and structural stability............. 

The experts emphasized the importance of good structural engineering practices to prevent structural failures such as the one occurred long ago in 2010 at Kalahasti Shiva temple, AP which could have been prevented.   The entire ‘Rajagopuram’ of  500-year-old Srikalahasti  temple — popularly known as ‘Dakshina Kaasi’ in Chittoor district collapsed on  the  night of May 27, 2010 . Providentially  one died or got hurt.  Vijayanagara ruler Sri krishnadevaraya in 1516 AD to celebrate  his victory over Gajapathi kingdom had the  tower built mostly with brick, lime mortar.  The historical tower was gone for good and relegated to the pages of temple history due to sheer negligence of temple officials. Thin crack that developed 25 years ago on the tower eventually developed into a deep vertical fissure right on its face. Finally  the tower collapsed all of a sudden.  The officials immediately  designated the danger zone covering 150 ft radius around the weakening structure and shifted all residents and shop-keepers to safer places. This move averted what would have been a major  calamity.  Experts attributed this mishap due to heavy rain and another possibility was deep borewell operations near-by. 

 Coming back to Srirangam temple, HR & CE has  responsibility toward the society and proper maintenance of a historical temple. HR & CE and the district administration  must post guards and impose ban on  all kinds of  construction activities  such as digging, piling, etc.,  sinking deep borewells, firing of crackers within the radius of  20 meter from the Rajagopuram . Apart, the ban has to be effected on the movement of heavy vehicles through the rajagopuram. Such a move will be useful to the stability of the tall gopuram. Already daily tons of sand are being taken out from the Cauvery river and several huge  deep borewells are sunk by the government to tap water. Such activities will affect  geomorphology of the local area.  From geology point of view because of too much loss of water a situation may develop conducive to the  cause of minor cumulative seismic events. These might weaken the structuress - be they tall or small 

The onus is on the HR&CE to save the heritage temple  further disintegration of any of its tall gopurams or any other structure that would pose threats to the safety of  thousands of devotees visiting the temple weekly. They must check all the wooden rafters on the gopurams and their stability. Extra safety ought to be taken if they use props on a section of tier on the gopuram above the entrance gate though which lots of people pass through.