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500-year-old temple tower comes crashing down

The five centuries-old 'galigopuram' (tower) of the famous Sri Bhavannarayana Swamy temple at Bapatla in Guntur district collapsed on Sunday. This was second such historic structure in the state to crash down after the rajagopuram of Srikalahasti temple crumbled last year. 

The Bhavanarayanaswami Temple was one of the most ancient temples in Guntur District and is said to belong to Mauryan period and the presiding deity is Bhavanarayanaswami [Credit: Travel India]
The temple was closed on Thursday for carrying out repairs on the galigopuram. However, even before the structural engineers from Bangalore arrived here, the structure crashed leaving the endowments officials red-faced. Luckily, no one was injured in the incident. The galigopuram stood at a 75-feet tower close to a five-storied building. When contacted, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) superintendent R Krishnaiah expressed shock over the collapse of the structure. 

The collapse at Bhavannarayana Swamy temple has once again exposed lack of coordination between various government departments in protecting historical structures. Constructed by Chola king Kimikantha in 1465, the temple was renovated by Raja Vasireddi Venkatadrinaidu of Amaravathi kingdom in 1856. 

Though the temple came under the endowments wings in 1945, ASI took over the structure in late 1960s. "We are only responsible for conducting the daily prayers. We are not authorised to touch the temple structure even for minor repairs as ASI is looking after its maintenance," K Subbareddy, deputy commissioner (endowments), said. 

The temple authorities noticed cracks on the galigopuram two years ago and sought the assistance of the ASI authorities. Several teams from the ASI visited the temple in the last one year and proposals for renovation have been doing the rounds. However, ASI did not allow the endowments department to take up even minor repairs with local engineers citing damages to the historical structure. 

Meanwhile, director of state archaeology department R Chenna Reddy has lashed out at the endowments department for not allowing the archaeology experts to monitor the historical monuments. He said the endowments officials were deliberately keeping away the experts. 

Citing the example of the Srikalahasti rajagopuram collapse, he said the endowments department was solely responsible for the incident as it misled the government as to who should take up the repairs. Meanwhile, Bapatla MLA Gade Venkata Reddy and MP JD Seelam visited the temple soon after the collapse and promised to take immediate steps for renovation. The MP said he would grant Rs 10 lakh for the repairs. 

Source: The Times of India [October 24, 2011]

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