HR&CE officials inspect Nataraja Temple in TN following court order

The Madras High Court responded to petitions by  devotee MN Radha and the HR&CE department alleging illegal construction activities within the temple.
Officials from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department and the Archaeological Department conducted an inspection at the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram on Thursday.
Officials from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department and the Archaeological Department conducted an inspection at the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram on Thursday.

CUDDALORE: In accordance with a high court directive, representatives from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department conducted an inspection at the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram on Thursday amid allegations of illegal construction after replacing old structures.

The officials scrutinised various areas, including the newly constructed Goshala, the elephant's resting place, the flower garden, Anandhanam hall, entrances to all four temple towers, and the closed wall on the south side. The team meticulously documented their inspection through photography and videography.

The Madras High Court responded to petitions by devotee MN Radha and the HR&CE department alleging illegal construction activities within the temple. Weeks ago, the court had instructed the HR&CE department to dispatch a team to inspect the temple and furnish a report on their findings. Adhering to this directive, a team, led by additional commissioner A Shankar, visited the Nataraja Temple on Thursday

The traditional priests, Podhu Dikshitars, meanwhile expressed opposition, citing a lack of prior notification for the examination, and submitted a letter to the officials following the issuance of the inspection order.

The letter was issued to the officials by Podhu Dikshitars' lawyer, G Chandrasekhar. After consultations with senior officials, the HR&CE department team initiated the inspection process. Addressing the media, HR&CE additional commissioner A Shankar stated, "Based on complaints of new construction in the temple, a case was pending in the Madras Court, and an order was issued for inspection.

We have documented evidence of the issues raised in the case. Numerous ancient drawings were damaged, and constructions were carried out by concealing inscriptions and disrupting the main temple tower (Rajagopuram). We have inspected all these aspects and recorded them for the report to be submitted to the court through the commissioner."

Speaking to the media, Podhu Dikshitars' lawyer Chandrasekhar, said, "Dikshitars were only informed about the inspection when officials arrived, as no prior intimation was given. We have appealed to the court to reconsider the inspection order, as our opinion was not sought, despite being one of the petitioners. This inspection goes against the law. We are not engaged in any illegal construction within the temple premises."

Chandrasekhar objected to the information in the Government Order, asserting that it falsely claimed the Nataraja Temple operates under the HR&CE department, contrary to a Supreme Court order. Throughout the inspection, revenue department officials under Chidambaram sub-collector Sweta Suman were present, and police personnel were deployed.

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