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Archaeological Survey of India rules for prayers at protected archaeological sites

  • Published
    11th May, 2022
Context

After prayers were held at the ruins of the eighth-century Martand Sun Temple in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag recently, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has expressed its concern to the district administration while refraining from lodging a formal complaint.

About

Martand Sun Temple:

  • The Sun Temple, build in 370 AD, has historic and religious significance for the Hindu community as it is one of the only two Sun Temples in India, with the other one in Konark in Odisha.
  • Dedicated to Martand, the Sun God, Temple was built by Lalitaditya Muktapida.
  • Other temples built by the King Lalitaditya are the temples at Naranag and the ruins of Parihaspora.
  • The main shrine is built in the center of a courtyard with cellular peristyle.
  • The imposing gateway has human figures, floral scrolls, pairs of geese and figures of Vishnu.
  • The main shrine consists of an oblong garbha griha (sanctum), antrala (vestibule) and spacious mandapa.
  • Two double chambered sideways flanking the mandapa are on novel and special features on the temple.
  • The images carved on side walls of antrala and mandapa are of Ganga, Yamuna, Vishnu and are other deities.
  • Devri stone is used in the construction of the temple.
  • This temple has been built with strong and square limestones and exhibits pillars in Greek pattern.
  • Martand Surya Mandir is a mix of authentic Kashmiri architecture and Gandharan, Gupta, Chinese, Roman, Syrian-Byzantine and even Greek architectural styles.
  • It is said to have been destroyed during the rule of Sikandar Shah Miri between 1389 and 1413.

Lalitaditya Muktapida:

  • Lalitaditya was born in the year of 699 AD as the third son of Durlabhak-Pratapaditya of kashmir.
  • He was from the Nagvanshi Karkota Kayastha Dynasty of Kashmir.
  • Karkota Kayastha families were mainly serving in the army of the kings of Kashmir since decades. They were known for their remarkable courage in the battlefield.
  • The Kings of Kashmir had given them the title Sakhasena for their immense contribution.
  • Lalitaditya’s birth name was Muktapida and his older brothers were Chandrapida and Tarapida.
  • Muktapida took over the Kingdom of Kashmir in the year 724 AD.
  • It was the same time, when the western invasion had begun in India and the Arabs had already occupied the province of swat, multan, peshawar and the Kingdom of Sindh.
  • The Arab king Mohammad Bin Qasim, the Arab ruler was already threatening to occupy Kashmir and central India.
  • He fought the daradas, kabhojas and bhuttas of ladakh who were under Tibetan rule.
  • Lalitaditya himself led the army into the war defeating all Kings and established control over the regions of Ladakh.
  • The alliance between Lalitaditya and Yashovarman defeated the Arabs from entering Kashmir.
  • He later invaded Turkestan via Kabul. Lalitaditya acquired most of the places in the west and south of India starting from Rashtrakutas in Maharashtra, Pallavas and Kalinga in the southern part.
  • He also extended his kingdom to central China after defeating the Chinese. After which he was compared with Alexander the great.
  • The Kashmir Kingdom gained enormous wealth and Lalitaditya utilized the wealth to build massive infrastructure in Kashmir, construction of temples were taken up and Kashmir saw extensive development under Lalitaditya.
  • Lalitaditya was a very liberal King, though he was a strong follower of Hindu tradition, he respected all religions.
  • He is said to be a very compassionate ruler who responded to people’s voices.
  • In the year 760 AD, the Lalitaditya era came to an end by his sudden death.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Rules:

  • According to ASI officials, prayers are allowed at its protected sites only if they were “functioning places of worship” at the time it took charge of them.
  • No religious rituals can be conducted at non-living monuments where there has been no continuity of worship when it became an ASI-protected site.
  • Of the 3,691 centrally-protected monuments and archaeological sites maintained by the ASI, a little less than a fourth (820) have places of worship, while the rest are considered non-living monuments where no new religious rituals can be started or conducted.

About Archaeological Survey of India (ASI):

  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.
  • Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance is the prime concern of the ASI.
  • Besides it regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
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