13 May 2017

Controversy at Arunachaleswarar Temple with Bird Restrictions

Below I reproduce a recent article in The Hindu regarding an ongoing controversy at Arunachaleswarar Temple regarding wire mesh work installed on all the Temple Gopurams which restricts the sanctuary and nesting of birds. 

The article reads:- 

Meshes in Tiruvannamalai temple ‘gopurams’ kick up row 

"The sharp pat-pat-pat sound of birds taking off is something you hear inside most old buildings. Many times, pigeons, sparrows and even bats find shelter inside temples, churches and mosques. 

Aluminium meshes installed in openings on the nine Gopurams (towers) of the Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai seem to have stirred up a controversy with a section of devotees objecting to it saying pigeons and bats are unable to stay in the temple towers. 

Raja Gopuram before meshes installed which now prevent birds and monkeys receiving sanctuary

Tiruvannamalai resident and animal lover M. Raghavan said a group of persons had submitted a petition to the District Collector asking him to instruct the temple officials to remove the meshes. “In the evenings, hundreds of birds would usually be seen near the gopurams but now we only see a lot their feathers and wings near Vengikaal where many rice mills are located. We can only conclude that the birds are being caught in large numbers in that area,” he said. 

Agriculture student and devotee J. Neelakantan said cleaning of droppings was an issue and the temple authorities could ask any of the devotee groups to do it. “Temple gopurams are places where birds have been living for hundreds of years. We don’t talk about the pollution that is created by thousands of humans coming for the monthly girivalam [circumambulation] around the Arunachala hill here,” he complained. 

A former official of the Archaeological Survey of India, which protects monuments said that it was a regular practice to install such meshes in temples so as to not permit the entry of bats. “There must not be any concrete or brick structure blocking the flow of wind across the towers,” he said. 

Sources in the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments explained that old damaged iron meshes were only replaced during the temple’s Mahakumbabhishekam in February this year with aluminum ones. “After these new meshes were installed, the monkey menace has come down by 90%. Monkeys used to jump down from the Gopurams scaring devotees. The bat and bird droppings only speeded up the process of the wooden beams and rafters inside the gopurams rotting,” the official said. “The birds have been provided space and they do continue to sit on the gopurams." 

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