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BENGALURU: It is centuries older than the city that houses it. Located in the heart of Bengaluru, the 1,250-year-old Sri Someshwara Swamy Temple boasts of a rich heritage – it was built by the Chola dynasty and revamped by the Vijayanagara kings and Bengaluru founder Kempe Gowda. But instead of being preserved, the architectural marvel is being damaged in the name of renovation, claim historians and conservationists.

The temple in Ulsoor, east Bengaluru, is being cemented and concretized, which experts say is marring its aesthetic beauty.

When TOI visited the temple on Monday, construction work was in progress, and the walls and pillars were being raised. “We are constructing two new temples and a shelter for various chariots. We have taken up the work following clearance from the government,” said Selvamani T, executive officer of the temple, which is under the Muzrai department.

Many corners of the temple’s inner walls and the roof have been cemented and painted. Additional structures have been erected on old walls. Asked whether the modifications are spoiling the ancient temple’s architectural grandeur, Selvamani said the cementing and painting work wasn’t done during his tenure.

Heritage enthusiast Swaminathan Natarajan has penned several letters to people in power, asking them to save the temple’s originality. He has blamed unscientic renovation for its present condition. “We as a city should stop the destruction of Someshwara temple. Haphazard cementing and concretization are robbing the temple of its beauty and antiquity. Its tourism value is also being lost,” he added.

Heritage expert and conservationist Sathya Prakash Varanashi, who has been fighting to save the temple, said, “Heritage survives only if there is continuity, something we often ignore. Much of our past is being altered or diluted in the name of development, especially when it comes to temples. The Ulsoor temple is an apt example of how we are defacing historical structutres.”

Historian Suresh Moona said the main reason for the sorry state of affairs is that the temple is not a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or the Karnataka archeology department. “The government should realize the architectural and heritage value of the temple is as important as the religious aspect. Its intricate carvings and magnificent architecture are on a par with Hampi monuments. The authorities should stop passing the buck and take collective responsibility to protect this icon,” he added.

Will look into matter: Muzrai department

Magdalin Nalina, headquarters assistant, muzrai department, said the problem concerning the renovation has not come to her notice so far, and she will look into the matter soon. “Revamp/development projects which cost less than Rs 1 crore are approved by the respective deputy commissioner. This is one such project,” he added.

A PEEK INTO HISTORY

*Temple’s history dates back to Chola period

*Though built by the Chola dynasty, major modifications were done during Vijayanagara Empire and Kempe Gowda’s rule in 1540-1560.

* Boasting of the Vijayanagara style of architecture, it has a mantapam with 48 distinctly carved pillars

* It’s foundation is said to be laid by Mandavya Maharishi, whose idol is housed in the temple

* Shiva and Vishnu idols are kept in the same sanctum sanctorum, which is a unique feature

* It’s believed a couple which gets married in the temple stays together forever

* During excavations in 2010, a 69-foot deep stepped tank (kalyani) was discovered on temple’s left side