The Archaeological Survey of India is working on a preliminary roadmap to safely remove sand from the interiors of Odisha’s Sun Temple, which was filled up by the British 118 years ago to prevent it from collapsing.
A formal decision on this is yet to be taken. But a recent presentation by ASI (Bhubaneswar circle) head Arun Malik spoke of possible approaches to remove the sand from the temple’s sealed assembly hall, known as Jagamohan. The presentation was delivered at a three-day workshop organised by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar.
The idea was floated in February 2020 at the end of a two-day national conference on the conservation of the Sun Temple. The then union culture minister Prahlad Singh Patel had asked ASI to prepare a report on the modalities of removing the sand.
Based on this, ASI formed a four-member committee to study the monument and submit a safe method of removal.
The need to remove the sand was felt after a study warned of possible damage caused by the sand settling down — resulting in a gap of 17 feet between the sand layer and the structure.
This report was submitted in 2019. CBRI had suggested that the 17-foot gap should be refilled with fresh sand. Alternatively, it had proposed removing all the sand and properly restoring the structure. The CBRI report stated that despite the gap, the structure was still stable.
ASI, the custodian of the world heritage site, will be assisted by IIT Madras in the process.
As per the preliminary proposal, a window will be carved out on the western side of Jagamohan in the first phase. The 6×6 foot window will be created close to an existing opening made in the British era to gain access to the interior of the monument.
The new access will help authorities chart out a future course of action through inspection and documentation of the walls and the interiors.
Apart from this, another opening will be carved out at the bottom of the Antarala (inner sanctum), for the same purpose, the presentation stated.
A working platform is being planned over the inner sanctum. The windows will also help officials understand the masonry of the wall, the presentation said.
After these steps are officially completed, tenders will be floated for the excavation process.
Built by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty from 1238-1250 CE, the 13th century late-style Kalingan temple forms part of the golden triangle of Odisha, along with Puri and Bhubaneswar, and attracts tourists, pilgrims, and history and art lovers.
The Jagamohan is the only structure that is fully intact now.