Saturday, Aug 13, 2022
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Rubble Of Heritage

Shoddy clean-up of a 12th-C shrine digs up artefacts. Some have been damaged.

Wilderness Photograph by Apoorva Salkade

The vast expanse around the granite temple is largely dry, acc­entuating its forlorn looks. Till recently, the secluded spot used to be a den for drinkers and gamblers even as the 800-year-old structure, contrastingly, features an enclosure for a solemn occasion: last rites of the Lingayat community. It’s another matter the Bara Khambi mandir in central Maharashtra had been threatened with encroachment. Today, the small Shiva shrine off Ambejogai is in the throes of a make­over that is turning out to be increasingly controversial.

It happened a couple of months ago when a massive clean-up exercise around the place of worship gave clue to it being just the top of a much bigger structure. The site lies half-excavated, begging for restoration, conservation and, more imp­ortantly, protection. The facelift was part of the Swachhata Abhiyan involving residents of Ambejogai in Beed district. Along with the volunteer-driven shramdan activities, a JCB was deployed. It is hard to tell if the purpose was excavation or sanitation. Whatever, the mission churned up a range of artefacts: idols (big and small), structures resembling the wheel and an arch. Steps to a tank-like structure have resurfaced after the soil was moved. The state department of archaeology has stepped in, but things are moving at a snail’s pace.

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