When prayers are allowed, not allowed at protected archaeological sites

Contact Counsellor

When prayers are allowed, not allowed at protected archaeological sites

After prayers were held at Martand Sun Temple in J&K, ASI has expressed its concern to the district administration while refraining from lodging a formal complaint.

The rules

  • ASI, which functions under Ministry of Culture, is custodian of the protected monument.
  • According to ASI officials, prayers are allowed at its protected sites only if they were “functioning places of worship” at the time it took charge of them.
  • No religious rituals can be conducted at non-living monuments where there has been no continuity of worship when it became an ASI-protected site.
  • Although the Martand Sun Temple was once a thriving place of worship, commissioned by Lalitaditya Muktapida in the eighth century, it was destroyed by Sikandar Shah Miri in the 14th century.
  • When ASI took over the temple ruins for conservation, no puja or Hindu ritual was being held there. So, when puja was conducted on the temple complex twice last week, it was violation of ASI norms since the temple is considered a non-living monument.

The living monuments

  • The best example of a living ASI monument is Taj Mahal in Agra, where namaz is held every Friday.
  • Officials of ASI’s said namaz is offered in the mosque but this is only by local Muslims who have to display an identity card, and who have been directed not to start any new ritual or tradition.
  • Namaz has been offered here for the last 400 years and this is not a new tradition.

Other notable living monuments:

  • Remains of an old Hindu temple inside the Dayaram Fort in Hathras
  • Three mosques in Kannauj
  • Roman Catholic Church in Meerut
  • Nila Mosque in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village
  • Bajreshwari Devi Temple in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba, and
  • Several Buddhish monasteries in Ladakh.

Authorised and unauthorised

  • There are also several protected temples and mosques where worship is allowed on special occasions.
  • Brick Temple in Kanpur’s Nibia Khera: maximum of 100-150 devotees are allowed during Shivaratri Mela every year.
  • Many protected monuments are already witnessing unauthorised worship.
  • Eg: Lal Gumbad, Sultan Ghari’s tomb, and Ferozeshah Kotla, all in Delhi.

Exam Track

Prelims Take Away

  • Martand Sun temple
  • Brick temple, Kanpur
  • Taj Mahal
  • Archeological Survey of India