Art of Living programme at Big Temple triggers row

Permission to the Bengaluru-based Art of Living Foundation to conduct a two-day meditation programme on the premises of Sri Brihadeeswara Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site, has triggered a controversy.

A temporary structure has been put up at the prakara of the temple. The programme, ‘Unveiling Infinity’, is expected to attract 2,000 followers from different parts of the country. According to the foundation’s website, founded by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar, there will be three sessions starting Friday. He is expected to be present during the sessions.

To accommodate 2,000 persons, the organisers built a big makeshift pandal made of iron sheets on the temple lawns, which are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Activists also allege that the pandal blocked a panoramic view of the temple, a major attraction to tourists from across the world.

It was learnt that the foundation had obtained permission from the Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) and the ASI.

“I have never seen such a big pandal built at the temple. The event should not have been allowedon the temple premises. It has set a bad precedent,” said V. Jeevakumar, 56, an activist from Thanjavur.

He said the structures and sculptures might get damaged by workers, who cannot be expected to know the importance of the structure, while erecting or removing such a massive structure.

Criticising the ASI, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol. Thirumavalavan said that the protected temple site could not be allowed for such a programme.

The ASI officials claimed that similar programmes had earlier been held in the temple. The temporary pandal would have been removed immediately after the programme, they added.

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