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L-G Manoj Sinha offers prayer at protected Martand Sun temple in J-K, ASI raises red flag

After taking part in the puja ceremony at the ancient temple on Sunday, for which priests were called from outside the Union Territory, the L-G called it a truly divine experience.

Manoj Sinha's 'pooja' at ancient Martand Sun temple

The ‘pooja’, attended by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha at the premises of the Archaeological Survey of India-protected Martand Sun temple in Anantnag, was in violation of rules and the issue has been raised with the UT administration, ASI officials said on Monday.

“We have raised our concerns with the district administration. They have been sent a message that it is a violation of our rules. No permission was sought from us for the prayers. The LG did not hold the prayers inside the temple, but outside it. However, even that is a violation,” an official of the conservation body told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity.

According to the rules, if a site was a functional place of worship when it came under the jurisdiction of the ASI, then it would continue to be a place of worship, officials told news agency PTI.

However, the eight-century temple was not such a site, so permission had to be sought, the officials further told PTI.

Rule 7(1) of the 1959 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains, states that meetings, receptions, parties, entertainment or conferences cannot be held at a protected monument without permission in writing from the Central government.

Rule 7(2) says this should not apply to any event held “in pursuance of a recognised religious usage or custom”.

After taking part in the puja ceremony at the ancient temple on Sunday, for which priests were called from outside the Union Territory, the Lt. Governor called it a truly divine experience.

On the occasion, Sinha reiterated the government’s commitment to protect and develop ancient sites of cultural and spiritual significance.

Later, Sinha reviewed various facilities at the temple. A discussion was also held on tapping the tourism potential of the region.

According to The Indian Express report, the ASI, which functions under the Ministry of Culture, communicated to the district administration that it “deemed the incident as a violation of its rules” but has not lodged a formal complaint.

This is the second religious ceremony to be held at the temple, which is a “site of national importance”, over the past few days. The Sunday Express reported that Friday as many as 100 Hindu pilgrims had visited the ancient temple complex and sat on a stone platform to recite chants from scriptures. They were accompanied by security guards provided by the district administration.

On Monday, senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari tweeted: “Happy to see members of Kashmiri Pandit Community offering prayers at Martand Sun Temple ruins in Anantnag -Jammu & Kashmir. Navagraha ashtamangalam pooja sends out a powerful message of Indian syncretism & Pluralism given their trials & tribulations circa 1990.”

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