Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Wednesday began the process of sand excavation from inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Sun Temple in Konark.

The sand is set to be excavated after almost 120 years, to safeguard the temple structure, especially the Jagamohana.

This is a first of its kind operation which will reportedly take three years to complete and involves sophisticated technique.

As the first step to the operation, a private firm, BDR Constructions has started work on erecting an iron structure and a mechanical working platform on which lifts and trolleys will move to excavate sand.

Once the platform is set, in the second phase, a five feet high and four feet wide road will be constructed near the second 'Pidha' of the west gate through which the sand will be removed from the 'sanctum sanctorum'.

The process of sand removal is targeted to be completed within three years with the technical assistance of BDR company.

It is pertinent to mention here that that ASI had performed the ‘Bhumi Pujan’ rituals for the same in September last year.

Speaking about the operation, historian Anil Dhir said, “This is a kind of operation never ever has been undertaken anywhere in the world. If successful, it will be a textbook case. They will first remove some sand and observe its effect on the temple structure.”

“People have a notion that they will be allowed inside the temple after the sand is removed. But that is not the case. Like now, nobody will be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple ever. Moreover, the inside walls of the temple do not have any architectural beauty. Whatever, beauty it has, it is on the outside which is already in the open for the visitors to see. But I think, this is a welcome step by the ASI. And if everything goes right, the life of the Jagamohana will be increased manifold,” Dhir added.

For the uninitiated, the assembly hall of the Sun Temple was filled with sand by the British in 1903. It was then done so to provide stability to the structure.

In 2010, to ensure the safety of Sun Temple's sanctum sanctorum, several national and international archaeologists and engineers suggested removing the sand during an international workshop held in Konark.

Similarly, in 2015, the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) in Roorkee analysed the internal situation of the sanctum sanctorum through GPRS, laser scanning and endoscopy, and provided the assessment report to ASI.

(Reported by Sanjay Pati, OTV)