Alterations that don’t conform to the historic and archaeological character of site will be restricted
With an aim to conserve the centuries-old Mahalaxmi (Ambabai) temple at Kolhapur, the state government has decided to notify the site as a protected monument. The location is regarded as one of the ‘Shakti Peeths’ of Mother Goddess.
The notification will mean that any alteration in the structure or the premises of the temple, that does not conform to its historic and archaeological character, will be restricted.
The maintenance of the temple will also be undertaken by the state’s Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Tejas Garge, Director, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, told DNA that the proposal was in its final stages.
“This is an ancient temple. The upkeep and repairs do not seem to have been undertaken in the way they should have been done. The department must take the lead in protecting it. However, protection does not mean taking the temple in our control,” he said, adding that stakeholders and priests had been taken into confidence.
Garge added that the final notification for giving the temple the status of a protected monument would soon be sent to the state government.
The temple in Kolhapur, which is located at a distance of around 370km from Mumbai, is said to date back to the Shilahara period (11th Century) when it was completed by King Gandaraditya.
Vilas Wahane, Assistant Director, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, noted that the department had been trying to declare the temple as a protected monument since 1996-97.
“Once this happens, the area will be maintained and protected. No alterations or constructions will be allowed without our nod. This will prevent works such as laying of tiles, which affect the archaeological character of the site. Funding for the upkeep will also be made available,” he said.
Wahane also said the department will pay for the repairs and conservation of the temple.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had conducted chemical conservation of the idol in 2016 to stop its deterioration. A similar treatment was also done in 1955.
Garge said they had asked the priests to stop using ghee for ‘abhishek’ to prevent any damage to the idol. There is a need to increase the size of the sanctum sanctorum to reduce the humidity.
Recently, devotees of the Goddess had protested after a priest had dressed idol in a ghagra choli.
The directorate has 371 monuments in its ambit, including 153 temples, 49 forts, 20 caves and 149 other sites like the Banganga caves and the Gateway of India.
This includes 302 monuments for which the final notification has been issued and the first notification has been issued for the others. Proposals have been sent to the state government for declaring another 32 sites, including temples, forts, and caves as protected monuments.
However, despite the rising number of monuments under its ambit, the directorate has just 98 security guards to protect them.
The Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960, allows the state government to preserve ancient and historical monuments, records and archaeological sites and remains.