Shiva Krupa

Temples of India signify the very root of Hinduism and its culture. To be worth of the trust reposed by our ancestors, it becomes our primary responsibility to sustain our heritage for generations to come.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Documentation as tool of Post-Mortem Process?

A Temple with damage wall
What looked good in yesteryears may not necessarily hold good today. Even some time tested theories are undergoing revisions. There are occasions where we are driven to change our views. The concept, ' I am O.K. You are O.K' may be rewritten as ' I was O.K. Today I am not'  It simply means that we need to reshape the past ideologies to suit today's needs. It does not mean anything that results into the loss of ego. On the other hand the revised concept may be more beneficial not only to self but also to others.

When we talk about Heritage and Culture, the need for documentation became necessary to create awareness about our cultural values. We have read about Chola emperors who renovated the Temples built by their ancestors, used to restore the inscriptions . It showed the interest and care taken by them which is instrumental in knowing more about the past. Many inscriptions were documented during British rule and published. Similarly the masterly work of scholars like Neelakanda Sastri , Sadasiva Pandarathar and others help students of History even today.

With the advent of Technology, people started sharing pictures and other details of historical sites by publishing more books. The last decade witnessed the entry of information through various social media. It can not be denied that it did help people to educate themselves by sitting at Home. At the same time we must admit that the  information shared can also go to wrong hands.

There were times when people were prohibited from taking Photographs inside the Temples. It is still in practice at some places like Guruvayur. Let us not debate on how it can affect the sanctity. The more important issue is that Photography helps to speed up the screening process in which the anti socials are involved. I know pretty well that many people will disagree with the view, fearing that the prohibition can kill the interest of Art lovers.

Temples are different from Museums. Let us remember that the very purpose of our entry into a Temple is to worship the deities there. There is no doubt that we can also admire the handwork of the artisans. But there should be a clear demarcation between admiration and  devotion. We admire the sculptures of  horses with warriors , music pillars etc but the very moment we see an idol ,our hands fold unknowingly forgetting that as a piece of Art. It is the very purpose and essence of Idol worship. Once we step into the act of taking Photos and videos  of Main Deities for the purpose of sharing through social media ,  Devotion is lost instantly and we start describing the Murti as the unique piece of Art.
 Of late , some ' Art lovers' are found to post as many as 90 photos of the Temple they visited which includes the pictures of Main Deities. They publish it in social media to make others feel their presence. They bluntly react saying, ' You are telling me? Documentation is the only solution to solve the problem...'  This is where I differ with them. We are not against documentation. But what is the fun in sharing with everybody in the world when your treasures are open to high risk? Art lovers may maintain albums which may be useful in tracing the lost ones and help to identify them as strong evidence in the courts abroad. There have been instances when the idols vanished  soon after the pictures pertained to them were published in social media. If someone talk about the identity and security of antiques, let them answer why the well documented and much publicised Kohinoor Diamond and Tipu Sultan's sword are not returning to the Motherland. Yet we continue to loose our antiques miserably.

When we cry foul, we expect people to re look into the present procedures and try to introduce preventive measures. Museums across the world are exhibiting Indian antiques as their prize possessions in the name of gifts from art lovers. Does it not encourage the smugglers to make money out of it? How can the Museums call it legitimate when it is known pretty well that these antiques are stolen. Why don't they exhibit exemplary stand by denying to accept the property of other countries?  Don't they have the commitment to alert the Interpol and the concerned Governments about the thefts?

Before concluding we wish to  state that documentation can be used as a tool in the post mortem process. The question addressed to the Government is how is that these idols are allowed to get away through the customs? Are they not passing through the scanner when ordinary passengers are subjected to follow? It is a rude shock when we  see historic pieces  as high as six feet and more find place in the museums abroad. How can such a big one miss the attention of the customs authorities apart from skipping the eyes of check post personnel of the origin?  Let the Government take the primary responsibility and answer to the parliament and commit a date before which the lost one can be brought back.

What we believe most is the availability of a Preventive mechanism . Documentation can be a corrective action. Why at all we allow the theft to happen and do very little to counter the challenge before us . Let all art lovers,archaeologists and well wishers unite together under a common umbrella to sort out the problem. Let us not bother that our individuality is lost by doing so. It  will help shedding our ego when we unite for a common cause.

AF rebuilding a Temple wall
Ardhra Foundation always believes to practice before preaching something in the interest of the society. Building Compound walls , providing strong rooms to store idols in rural Temples are some of the initiatives of the foundation.For more details, one may visit our website,  As no single organisation can take up such a huge work in all Temples, we try to inspire people through blogs and direct interactions. At this stage we still lack a comprehensive mechanism to preserve our Heritage sites, the implementation of which is the immediate need of the hour.