The Archaeological Survey of India is working on a preliminary roadmap to safely remove sand from within Odisha Sun Temple, which was filled in by the British 118 years ago to keep it from collapsing.
A formal decision on this has not yet been taken. But a recent presentation by ASI (Bhubaneswar Circle) leader Arun Malik spoke of possible approaches to removing sand from the temple’s sealed meeting room, known as Jagamohan. The presentation was made during a three-day workshop organized by the Indian Institute of Technology in Bhubaneswar.
The idea was launched in February 2020 following a two-day national conference on the conservation of the Temple of the Sun. The then trade union minister of culture, Prahlad Singh Patel, asked ASI to prepare a report on how to remove the sand.
Based on this, ASI formed a committee of four members to study the monument and submit a safe removal method.
The need to remove the sand arose after a study warned of possible damage from the sagging sand, which resulted in a 17-foot gap between the sand layer and the structure.
This report was submitted in 2019. The CBRI had suggested that the 17-foot space should be filled with fresh sand. Alternatively, he had offered to remove all the sand and properly restore the structure. The CBRI report said 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.
According to the preliminary proposal, a window will be dug on the west side of Jagamohan in the first phase. The 6 × 6 foot window will be created near an existing opening made in British times to access the interior of the monument.
The new access will help the authorities to chart a future course of action through the inspection and documentation of the walls and interiors.
Apart from that, another opening will be dug at the bottom of the Antarala (inner shrine), for the same purpose, the presentation says.
A working platform is planned above the inner sanctum. The windows will also help managers understand the masonry of the wall, according to the presentation.
Once these steps are officially completed, tenders will be issued for the excavation process.
Built by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty from 1238 to 1250 CE, the late 13th-century Kalingan Temple is part of the Golden Triangle of Odisha, along with Puri and Bhubaneswar, and attracts tourists, pilgrims and lovers of history and art.
The Jagamohan is the only structure that is fully intact now.