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Mahakali idol destruction in Karnataka temple: ASI should get out of temple management if it can’t protect them

For a few years now, the temple priest has been raising alarm repeatedly and complained to the ASI that Ashtabandha of the idol had weakened and it was wobbling

Last week, one Hoysala-era idol of Mahakali at the Doddagaddavalli Temple near Hassan district, Karnataka was found damaged. The temple, an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monument, was built in the 12th Century by Hoysala dynasty. But the news was quickly buried, there was no outrage over it, there was no heated debate on it.

It is not known why this beautiful idol was splintered into two and many theories are being put forth but no one knows what really happened. Some even think it is not necessary to know. It is not a temple that was constructed by some rich man to wash away his sins. It has a historicity and antiquity of 900+ years. Not only, it was the first temple built by Hoysalas, it is also the only Chatushkoota (4-towered and hence 4-shrine) temple. It is also believed that it resembles Kolhapur’s Mahalakshmi closely, the reason why it is also referred to as Abhinava Kolhapuri. According to the literature discovered here, it is believed that the temple was built by Architect Mallojha MaNiyoja, who had earned the title of Vishwakarma Subhashita.

Central Government has declared this as National Protected Monument since 1958, This temple is an example of methodical architecture where there are Nine crowns and 4 towered temple where Mahalakshmi temple’s crown is in Chalukya style and rest of them are in Kadamba Naagara style. There is no other temple of this kind and also with many special features anywhere else in Karnataka.

Another specialty – Goddess Kali is generally found either in calm gentle form or in fierce ferocious form. But Lord Vishnu is installed in this temple exactly opposite to Kali in order to calm Her down. Similarly to calm down Lord Shiva, Godess Lakshmi is installed opposite to him. It is thus not surprising that there is no other temple in the country that has these extra ordinary and unique features. This temple being guarded by a 7ft tall Nude Vampire (Betala) is another unique feature.

Yet another specialty of the carvings here. In modern time, technology has advanced and any sculpture can be carved out in any manner that we wish. With available best resources it had to be carved in olden days (12th Century) which still baffles modern sculptors. The lore is that Vishwakarma the famed Divine Architect used to bring some herbal concoction to this temple and apply it on the stones, due to which stone used to soften up for a few days. Famous Sculptors then used to sculpt the stone into the form they desire and thereafter the stones used to harden again. These hardened stones are seen even today after centuries without losings its form and shape. One can find a whetstone in this temple in which this herbal concoction is believed to have been ground.

These are the information gleaned from the guides and locals. In fact, they have far more information than what is mentioned here, which is besides the point. Issue is what Archeological Survey of India was doing when an Idol of this Unique and popular temple was being broken.

This is not the first time such an incident has happened in this temple. 40 years back, Idol of Lord Vishnu was stolen from the same temple and in its place stands Bhairava today. Many come here with utmost devotion and many come here to damage it too. Yet others come here to steal and make money out it. All these only indicates the importance and glory of this temple.

Given this situation, ASI should have been far more responsible. But what has been their role in the current times? The locals say that dogs, pigs and other stray animals enter the temple premises and move around freely. The security for this 900+ year old marvel is pathetic, the reason why we lost Lord Vishnu idol in the past. Apparently, no lessons were learnt by ASI despite this. It was Muslim invaders who destroyed our temples in the past, but today it is incompetent people of ASI who have facilitated the destruction now.

The reasons for this anger against ASI are well founded. When the initial reports of destruction of the Idol came in, I assumed it to be handiwork of “miscreants from a particular community”. Upon enquiry I realized it was not the case. How did it break in that case? Was it treasure-hunters? There were no signs of forced entry too is what got revealed. Was it idol thieves who fled when it was accidentally dropped? No! If none of them is the cause, what really happened?

The truth was known only to the priest. During the installation of an idol to its base (Peetha), they apply Ashtabandha, a special glue used by Temple architects. According to experts of temple architecture and construction, this Asthabandha is not a permanent glue. Its bonding power lasts for 12 years and it needs to be reinstalled thereafter. Ever since it was taken over by ASI as most of the temples under their charge are, it is in a worrisome state. It needs the permission of these overrated incompetent officers to even move a stone within the complex. They don’t care about these important matters. Even if we offer to do it, we have to run around the courts to get permission. Or we may have to face the consequences for altering so-called National Monument.

This is how even Bhadrakali’s idol also got broken. For a few years now, the temple priest has been raising alarm repeatedly and complained to the department that Ashtabandha of the idol had weakened and it was wobbling. The apathy of the officers as if it was none of their business and Bhadrakali is not owned by them has now reduced in the devotee community to grief. Idols are not supported by the walls. It is held in position by the gib. The idol got toppled as it began leaning to the front due to the weight. The question is if it fell on its own? Or stray dogs, foxes or pigs leant on it is still unanswered. It has shocked the priest beyond belief is to find the broken idol when he reached the temple early in the morning for his daily duties.

We have to keep repeating this. If they are incapable, let ASI get lost from the temple management. They can always come and dig some place, pick up some pieces of pottery or tree bark etc and continue their research for years. Let them leave temple management to responsible Hindus. We will bring the glory back with the contributions of devotees. If not out of devotion to the temple, let them at least address the problems as a National Monument immediately.

If nothing is possible what is the point of their research. Is it only to dig and pick up some artefacts? Why do we pay our taxes for these pointless activities? Remember, this is not just about this temple. Many temples of Karnataka face similar fate. It is a temple only for namesake, the rituals performed without any commitment, if something happens at all. Many Deities in the Hampi’s Bishtappayya Gopuram do not even get their regular Pooja. Rituals that have been practiced for centuries have ceased because of ASI. They defend their inaction hiding behind the procedure for applying and approval from the Government. If anything as harmless as a ritual is done by devotee, they promptly file a case against them. Sadly, it is applicable only to humans. Pigs and Dogs have free run and defecate inside but they claim it is not their responsibility.

The temples that withstood Muslim invaders’ onslaught, got broken on Tippu Jayanti. Hindus haven’t raised their voices. They will not do it ever. It is a shame on us.

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Chiranjeevi Bhathttp://chirubhat.com/
Chiranjeevi Bhat, also known as Chiru Bhat is a journalist at Hosa-Diganta. Previously he has worked in Vishwavaani, Kannada Prabha, Suvarna News 24/7 and Samaya News. His writings will be mainly on security related issues, politics, distortion and appropriation.

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