National Highways Authority of India Spares 1,300-Year-Old Temple


CHENNAI, INDIA, January 22, 2013 (The Hindu): The Siva temple at Panaiyapuram in Tamil Nadu was to be demolished to make way for widening the Vikkiravandi-Thanjavur highway. When the plans to widen the NH-45C, cutting through the temple, became public, residents of Panaiyapuram, Pappanapattu, Mundiyampakkam, Kappiyampuliyur and Thuravi forgot their caste and class divisions and rose as one to protest against it. For the widened highway would have shot like an arrow through the ancient Siva temple and its sanctum sanctorum for Panankateesvarar, and the shrines for his consort Satyambikai, Ganesa and Muruga would have been razed to their foundation. Inscriptions belonging to Rajendra Chola (regnal years 1012 CE to 1043 CE), his son, Rajendra Chola II, Adhi Rajendra, Kulotunga I, Jatavarman Sundara Pandiya I, Vikrama Pandiya and others would have disappeared.

This enraged the villagers, who were determined not to allow the temple demolition to go through. They petitioned Villupuram Collector V. Sampath, National Highways Authority of India officials and Union Ministers. The State government’s land acquisition officer feared the issue would lead to a law and order problem. The NHAI officials informed their headquarters about the protests.

The NHAI has now decided “to restrict the proposed ROW [right of way] width to avoid acquisition of the ancient temple near Panaiyapuram village by restricting the extent of land acquisition up to the existing compound wall of the temple on the LHS [left hand side] of the temple portion only.” The NHAI has stated this in a letter, dated October 6, 2012, to the Competent Authority and the Special District Revenue Officer (LA), National Highways-45C, Villupuram. In an earlier communication also, dated September 20, 2012, the NHAI said the “four-laning of NH-45C will be accommodated between the existing compound wall of the temple and the existing Veeranam pipeline on the other side.” When contacted, an NHAI official said: “The temple will not be touched.”

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