The Vice President of India, Shri M Venakaiah Naidu has called upon the government and the civil society organizations to join hands in preserving India’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Saying that a beginning has been made in the recent years to build this kind of public-private partnerships to preserve and protect monuments and propagate cultural traditions and art forms, he said the conservation project undertaken at the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple was one such example.
Shri Naidu expressed concern over the lack of care relating to archaeological sites and said that those innumerable treasures should not be allowed to be buried under the weight of relative neglect and inertia. He said that as a society everyone has a responsibility in preserving and protecting out cultural and spiritual heritage. He said that such noble causes must take the shape of peoples’ movements like Swachh Bharat and BetiBachaoBetiPadhao programs.
Observing that India has many priceless treasures of art and architecture, song and dance, poetry and theatre, mythology and theology, the Vice President stressed the need to preserve and protect all structures and monuments of historical and cultural importance.
Shri Naidu complimented the Indian Culture and Heritage Trust and the VenugopalaswamyKainkaryam Trust for taking up the conservation of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam.
The Vice President said that there was need to provide training, knowledge and skills in restoration work to people working at archaeological departments, local engineering departments and local bodies. He also wanted Civil Engineering institutions in the country to develop specialized courses for engineers, archaeologists and restoration professionals.
Shri Naidu advised local bodies and civil administrations to make special efforts to remove encroachments and create pilgrim friendly facilities in all places of religion and historical interest.
The book released by the Vice President explains the conservation project undertaken at Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam and details both the historical and mythological significance of the ancient shrine as well as the conservation efforts undertaken to restore the temple to its original glory.
The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri BanwarilalPurohit, The Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, Government ofTamil Nadu, Shri Sevvoor S. Ramachandran, Shri D. Jayakumar, the Minister for Fisheries and Personnel and Administrative Reforms, SrimadSrivarahaMahadesikanSwamy, Andavan Ashram Srirangam, SrimadSrivensadagopaSriranganathaYathindraMahadesiganSwamy, Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt, Shri MadhurakaviVanamamalai, Jeeyar of Naguneri Mutt, Shri Venu Srinivasan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Shri S Gurumurthy, Editor, Thuglak and were also present at the event.
The following is the full text of the speech:
I am pleased to join all of you to launch this very important book that documents an outstanding conservation project undertaken at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam. The scale of this restoration project of restoring a 500-year old temple to its original glory was by all accounts, immense and required technical skill as well as a profound sense of aesthetics.
I congratulate the multidisciplinary team of about 1300 persons comprising stapathis, engineers, architects, conservationists, historians, archeologists, artists, crafts-persons, maintenance staff as well as concerned Department and most importantly, members of the local community, for their collaborative and concerted efforts to complete thischallenging project within a record time of 16 months.
Situated on the island of Srirangam, on the banks of the rivers Kaveri, the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple of Lord Vishnu, is one of the oldest and most important temples in India. This magnificent temple, spread over 156 acres, with 21 impressive towers and 7 enclosures or prakaras, is an architectural marvel.
I am told that this temple is one of the eight self-manifested shrines or SwayamVyaktaKshetras of Lord Vishnu and of the 108 main Vishnu temples or Divyadesams.
This temple is steeped in mythology and history. For centuries, it has enjoyed royal patronage of great dynasties from the Pallava, Pandya, Hoysala and Chera kingdoms. Later in our history, it faced the violent invasion by the Sultanate of Delhi and was resurrected to its glory by the Emperors of Vijayanagara and the Madurai Nayaka rulers.
Sisters and brothers,
With the passage of time, this resplendent jewel in the great architectural tradition of India lost its shine because of neglect and disuse.
I am told that utter neglect, disuse or decay undermined the beauty and splendor of the temple. The stagnation of water and dampness damaged the structures. Random and rampant construction around the structure changed the landscape as well as spoiled the original beauty of the architectural detailing.
I am happy that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR & CE), Government of Tamilnadu appointed Indian Culture Heritage Trust and the VenugoplaswamyKainkaryam Trust, Chennai, as the principle agency to undertake this conservation project.
I understand quite well the arduous nature of restoration work. It is not an easy project. As the famous Sanskrit dramatist Bhasa had said, “it is much more difficult to preserve treasure than to acquire it.” We, in India have many priceless treasures of art and architecture, song and dance, poetry and theatre, mythology and theology, philosophy and philology, mathematics and material science.
These innumerable treasures lie largely buried under the weight of relative neglect and inertia.
We cannot allow this to continue.
The government and the civil society organizations must get together and take up the task of preservation of our tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
I am happy to see that a beginning has been made in the recent years to build this kind of public-private partnerships to preserve and protect monuments and propagate cultural traditions and art forums.
The conservation project undertaken at the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple was of considerable magnitude and undeniable urgency. The aim of the conservation project was to restore, conserve, manage, protect and preserve the rich architectural heritage, historicity and original intent of this ancient shrine and to make every space of the temple complex accessible to all devotees to pursue their ritual practice within sanctified precincts as was intended, over five centuries ago.
I am pleased that this tremendously challenging project, which started in June 2014, was completed in a record time of 16 months and was creditably recognized with the prestigious UNESCO Award of Merit at the UNESCO-Asia Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation, 2017.
What struck me as remarkable is the tremendous passion that has driven this project. The vision set by the Chairman of the Board, Shri Venu Srinivasan, endorsed by the Board of Trustees and accepted and executed by a vastly experienced multi-disciplinary team.
And it not passion alone. It is the spirit of service that lifts this project from the realms of the ordinary to that of the extraordinary.
To me, this is a perfect example that faith can indeed move mountains, that in unity there undeniably is strength and that there is absolutely no substitute for committed hard work.
It is also a marvellous example of what can be achieved when Government, professionals and the local community hold hands, working side by side to achieve a common goal.
I can unhesitatingly say that the conservation project at this temple seems willed by Lord Ranganatha himself, resulting in every member of the team, subsequently, as a dasa, submitting to His divine will to accomplish, with astounding ease and speed, a project of such incredible magnitude.
The book that has just been launched, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam: preserving antiquity for posterity, commemorates the conservation project undertaken at the temple, detailing both the historical and mythological significance of this ancient shrine as well as the conservation efforts undertaken to restore the temple to its original glory and is complemented with before and after photographs that can help readers visualise the extensive depth and range of this timely project.
I deem it a privilege to partake in this evening’s programme to launch and celebrate what is undoubtedly an extremely important addition that documents a praiseworthy attempt to restore, conserve and preserve one of the finest examples of India’s architectural, historical and spiritual heritage.
I am told that almost 10 feet of accumulated earth concealed the lower portions of the sub-shrines. Around 50,000 tons of debris had to be removed to expose the glory of the original structures.
We, in India, have a collective responsibility to clear the debris at a number of such shrines concealing such valuable treasures.
We must unearth many more such jewels and restore them to the original glorious shape.
I hope the excellent work done by Indian Culture Heritage Trust and the VenugopalaswamyKainkaryam Trust will inspire others to take up such ambitious projects in the months to come.
I strongly feel that simultaneously, we must focus on enhancing our capability to restore antiquities. The Archeological department, local engineering departments and local bodies need special technical skills. Our craftsmen need to be trained in restoration work. I suggest that Civil Engineering institutions in the country should develop such specialized courses for engineers and archeologists and restoration professionals. Local bodies and civil administration should also make special efforts to remove encroachments and create pilgrim friendly facilities in all places of religion and historical interest.
We have an onerous responsibility as inheritors of a grand tradition.
We cannot rest on our past laurels.
As trustees of this treasure, it is our sacred and patriotic duty to preserve, protect and present our antiquities to the next generations.
Jai Hind !