A controversy erupted on Thursday after spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was granted permission to organise a two-day event at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) controlled spot in Big temple.
The Art of Living Foundation has scheduled a two-day retreat and meditation programme ‘Unveiling Infinity’ on December 7 and 8 in the premises of the Big temple, which was built by King Raja Raja Chola around 10th century and is now maintained by the ASI. Sources said, since the temple is maintained by ASI, public programmes cannot be conducted in the restricted area, but ASI has reportedly violated norms and granted permission for the event to be held.
The temple is currently administered and managed by Babaji Bhonsle, the head of the Thanjavur Maratha royal family. He serves as the hereditary trustee of the Palace Devasthanam. However, Tamil groups have been petitioning the Tamil Nadu government to revoke these rights as he does not belong to the erstwhile Chola royal family. Sources said it was Devasthanam which recommended that ASI allow the programme to be held.
“We have been fighting to remove Bhonsle from the temple administration as his origins are non-Tamil. Bhonsle is very keen on promoting Sanskrit-based programmes and so, he changed the name Peruvudayar to Bragadeeswarar which is a Sanskrit name. He has always neglected Tamil sentiments and we suspect he is behind all these arrangements,” said Aynapuram C Murugesan, president, Thanjavur Big Temple Rights Retrieval Committee.
Murugesan claimed that the Big temple administration is slowly turning into a pro Sanskrit venue and permission for the current programme should be withdrawn and warned of approaching the court in this regard.
P Maniarasan, coordinator, Big Temple Retrieval Committee, said, “The Devasthanam does not allow programmes of Saivaite scholars but is partial towards a particular sect of priests and even campaigns for them. The Sri Sri Ravi Shankar event is one such example. The HR and CE minister should intervene and prevent the programme.”
When contacted, an official from ASI said on condition of anonymity that initially they were unaware of the programme. “We received a letter from ASI in Chennai with a recommendation from the Devasthanam and so we were directed to act accordingly. We will hereafter ensure that such events are constructed outside the restricted spot,” the official added.
It may be noted that the Art of Living foundation, has already been fined for one such event by the Supreme Court, which slapped a fine of R .5 crore on it for disturbing the ecology of the Yamuna river banks in March last year.