TAMIL NAIDU: In the case of P Ranganathan v. State of Tamil Nadu, Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department to take control of a Hindu temple in Salem after finding that it was originally a Buddhist temple.
The bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh directed to make sure that no Hindu poojas and other ceremonies are performed at the sculpture of Buddha inside the premises. During the proceedings, the Court checked the reports submitted by the Principal Secretary & Commissioner of the Archaeological Department which concluded that the sculpture inside the temple was clearly of Buddha.
“The mistaken identity cannot be allowed to continue after coming to a conclusion that the sculpture is that of Buddha,” the single-judge held.
Buddhist trust moved a petition in a court seeking restoration of the contested land and premises, They informed the court that the Temple is in the control of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department. They further claimed that irrespective of the statue installed in the temple being that of Buddha, it had been converted into a Hindu deity called Thalaivetti Muniyappan and was being worshipped by Hindus.
In order to stop the controversy, the Court sought a report from the Archaeological Department. The report suggested that after cleaning the figure, it was found that the head showed traits of Buddha such as curly hair, ushnisa (crown of hair), and elongated earlobe.
“After inspecting the sculpture and carefully examining the available archaeological and historical evidences at our disposal, the Committee collectively expressed their opinion that the sculpture depicts several mahalakshanas (great traits) of the Buddha,” read the report’s concluding remarks.
The State Authority, however, argued that the premises had been treated as a temple of Thalaivetti Muniyappan for a considerable period of time and that the people of the locality came to this place for worship and can perform Pooja and various other Ceremonies.
“In view of the same, the original status must be restored and permitting the HR & CE Department, to continue to treat the sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan, will not be appropriate and it will go against the very tenets of Buddhism.”
Considering this, the Archaeological Department was directed to take control of the premises and maintain the sculpture. It was also directed to put up a board inside the property clarifying that the statue was of Buddha.
While the general public was allowed to enter the place, it was clarified that no Hindu pooja or other ceremonies would be performed at the sculpture of Buddha.
Advocate S Sathia Chandran appeared for the petitioners while the respondents were represented by Additional Government Pleader S Yashwanth and Government Advocate TK Saravanan.
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