'Idol Depicts Buddha': Madras HC Asks Archaeological Dept to Maintain Temple, Halts Rituals

The court had directed the Commissioner of the state's archaeological department to inspect the temple and the statue and submit a report. The latter noted the idol depicted Buddha.

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New Delhi: The Madras high court has directed the Tamil Nadu archaeological department to take control of and maintain the premises of a temple in Periyeri village in Salem after the latter confirmed that the idol in the premises was associated with Buddhist faith. It has also halted Hindu rituals at the temple.

LiveLaw has reported Justice Anand Venkatesh as having observed that allowing the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department to “continue treating the sculpture as that of Thalaivetti Muniappan would be against the tenets of Buddhism.”

The Buddha Trust in Salem had prayed for a direction to the ASI to conduct an inspection of the said statue at Thalaivetti Muniyappan temple and submit a report to the court as to its identity and antiquity and to direct the state government to take appropriate action to restore the said lands in Kottai Road, Periyeri village to the petitioner trust.

At an earlier hearing, the judge had directed the Commissioner of the state’s archaeological department to inspect the temple and the statue and submit a report. A claim was that the statue was that of the Hindu deity, Thalaivetti Muniappan.

The archaeological department, led by the Commissioner, carried out inspections at the temple and concluded that the idol’s structure is a depiction of the mahalakshanas of the Buddha. Mahalakshanas literally mean ‘great traits’ and refer to the discourses that inspired physical depictions of the Buddha, through statues and illustrations.

“The figure was in seated position known as ‘ardhapadmasana‘ on a lotus pedestal. The hands are posed in ‘dhyana mudra‘. The figure were a sagati. The head shows lakshanas of the Buddha such as curly hair, ushnisa and elongated earlobe. Urna is not visible on the forehead,” the report noted, according to LiveLaw.

The judge observed that after having received such a report, the mistaken identity can no longer be allowed to prevail.

“It is clear from the above report that the sculpture depicted “Buddha”. Till now, the same is under the control of the HR&CE department and an executive officer was also appointed on the premise that it is a temple. In view of the categorical report submitted by the Commissioner, the assumption of the department that it is a temple is no longer sustainable and the control must go into the hands of some other authority,” the court said.

“In view of the same, the original status must be restored and permitting the HR&CE department to continue to treat the sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan will not be appropriate and it will go against the very tenets of Buddhism,” the judge observed and directed the Commissioner of Archaeological department to take control of the property and maintain it.

“He shall also erect a board inside the property saying the sculpture is that of Buddha,” the judge directed.

“The general public can also be permitted to visit the place and it shall be ensured that no poojas or other ceremonies are allowed to be performed for the sculpture of Buddha,” the judge said.