Out of the 91 protected monuments in Tamil Nadu, the State’s archaeology department has taken guardianship of just one in Maligaimedu, Ulkota Village of Ariyalur district in 2004. Further, 45 out of the 91 monuments were in government lands and no efforts were made to acquire their ownership, it said.

Monuments for which rights/guardianships were not acquired, were vulnerable to damages or modifications, observed the Compliance Audit Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for the year ended March 31, 2020.

Modifications

A notified protected monument at Vishnu Koil, Ulagapuram, a stone temple with a unique style and inscriptions of Rajendra Chola I era (1012-044 CE), the villagers, had constructed an additional superstructure. . The officials identified it in September 2016 after the completion of 15 ft of additional structure. They stopped the unauthorised construction in November 2017.

Within the protected area of Karunguzhi Fort built by the Mohammeddans in 17th Century CE, a sewage treatment plant (STP) was constructed by the Karunguzhi Town Panchayat, damaging the monument. The construction activities could not be stopped since the department did not have any right over the property as per the revenue records.

The State government in July 2021 responded by stating that the appropriate steps are being taken , the report said.

The Tamil Nadu’s Department of Archaeology, which identifies, conserves and preserves ancient monuments, has failed to acquire ownership of 99 per cent of the declared protected monuments.

After a monument is declared protected, Section 4 (1) of the Tamil Nadu Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological sites and Remains Act, 1966 (Act) empowers the department to acquire right over the structure and the surrounding land by outright purchase, lease or as a gift. When the land in which the protected monument is located does not have an owner, the department may, by notification, assume the guardianship of the monument.

Human vandalism

There was human vandalism; oil accretion; sport formation; vegetative growth and lack of physical protection in monuments.

At the famous Thanjavur Palace constructed by the rulers of Thanjavur Nayak Kingdom (1535 CE) in 12.61 hectare and served as the official residence of the Thanjavur Maratha, the Mural and Stucco images in the Darbar Hall and Arsenal Tower were faded due to lack of maintenance.

Human vandalism was seen in five monuments - Jain Beds at Yanaimalai; Kongarapuliyankulam; Meenakshipuram; Thiruvadrur and Solavandipuram. A stone crushing mill was functioning within the protected areas of the Forty-Four British Soldiers Tomb in Thoothukudi district.

The State government may declare that the identified ancient monuments should be completed on a priority to enable their maintenance and preservation effectively. The government should ensure adequate steps are taken to maintain the protected monuments and fill up vacant technical posts, the Audit suggested.

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