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Repair of 7th century temple draws flak

The restored Lakhmaneswar temple. Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 18: Archaeologists and conservationists have slammed the conservation being carried out by the state archaeology department at the Lakhmaneswar group of temples opposite Rameswar temple at Mausima Square.

The critics have alleged that the renovation has significantly deviated from the original architecture of the temple that belongs to 7th century.

“They are making it look like a modern temple, far removed from the architectural excellence of the era to which the group of temples belong,” said a former archaeologist of the state archaeology department. The Lakhmaneswar group of temples is among the oldest temples found in the city. It was once known as “Mandi Malini” (garland of temples) because of the innumerable shrines that dotted its landscape. However, the city is now left with just about 300 temples. The others have fallen prey to rapid urbanisation and the lack of proper upkeep.

“The work undertaken by the state archaeology has contradicted the basic principle of archaeological conservation as the renovated Lakhmaneswar temple looks more like a modern monument,” well-known archaeologist Bijay Kumar Rath told The Telegraph.

“The central point of any restoration effort is to ensure that the structure becomes strong with least possible change in its original architectural style,” he said.

The temple group, consisting of Lakhmaneswar, Bharateswar and Satrughneswar temples, are all situated in the same complex. It is located across the street from Mausima temple, a well-known landmark of the city. The conservation is being carried out with funds from the 13th Finance Commission grants.

Susanta Kar, a senior archaeologist working with the Archaeological Survey of India’s Ratnagiri museum, said: “As an archaeologist, I feel that the restoration being carried out at the Lakhmaneswar group of temples leaves much to be desired. What we see today hardly bears any resemblance to the original structure.”

A senior office-bearer of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Odisha chapter, also admitted that the state archaeology department had compromised on several aspects while carrying out the restoration in the project.

B.P. Ray, superintending archaeologist of the state archaeology department, said: “We are renovating the Lakhmaneswar temple after a careful study of the other two temples — Bharateswar and Satrughneswar — in the same complex. We study the measurements according to Shilpa Sashtra, or the ancient temple-building principles of the Kalinga era.”

Ray refuted allegations that his department had deviated from the original style of while renovating the temples. “The allegation is not correct… Our effort in every case is to stick to the original style to the extent possible,” he said.


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