No immersion of idols in tank around Sher Shah’s tomb

February 3rd, 2009 - 4:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Feb 3 (IANS) It is official now. For the first time in more than two and half decades, authorities have not allowed immersion of idols in the tank surrounding the 16th century tomb of Afghan king Sher Shah Suri in Sasaram in Bihar’s Rohtas district. The ban on immersion of idols is part of the measures to preserve the monument.

District authorities claimed that no idols were immersed in the tank after the ban was imposed. “Not a single idol immersion took place in the tank during Saraswati Puja that concluded Monday night,” an official said Tuesday.

District police chief Vikas Vaibhav said that authorities strictly implemented the ban.

However, according to local people, a few idols were immersed in the tank. “Some people threw idols in the tank,” a local resident said.

Official sources said the ban was imposed last month in order to implement the Patna High Court’s direction to preserve the monument.

The district administration allowed the immersion of idols in the tank from 1980 onwards after a pond in the neighbourhood dried up. It has now provided an alternative place, with two ponds and a nearby canal now being used for the purpose as a temporary measure.

The Patna High Court had November expressed unhappiness that the monument had fallen into disrepair due to years of neglect and exposure to pollution, while some parts have also been encroached upon.

It directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Rohtas district administration to take measures to preserve the monument.

The court’s order came in response to public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Sasaram resident, who contended that the state government was not taking adequate steps to preserve the tomb.

The tank around the five-storey tomb in Sasaram town, about 150 km from here, is filled with acidic industrial discharge while illegally constructed buildings have come up all around it.

The district administration also ordered a detailed project report to stop polluted water from the town from entering the tank. Industrial discharge has turned the water in the tank acidic, which is threatening the structure.

An ASI official said the body had last year warned the state government about the ecological threats to the tomb.

It had also moved the Patna High Court to seek removal of illegal constructions around the tomb. The ASI had also approached the district administration for revival of inlet and outlet channels of the tank, and to prevent the immersion of idols, washing of clothes and bathing in the water body.

“The tank’s water has turned acidic. It is posing a serious threat to the mausoleum’s life - it will destroy the building material and weaken the structure. The tank’s depth has decreased alarmingly in the last two decades,” the official added.

Since 1977, illegal buildings, including temples, have been built within the premises. However, the state government says it spends about Rs.700,000 on the tomb’s maintenance each year.

The historical tomb was declared a national heritage site under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, and the ASI given the responsibility for its preservation and protection.

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