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Conservationists urge for immediate action to preserve historic Hampi monuments amid rising damage

Conservationists and residents are urging intensified protection efforts for the deteriorating monuments at Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Weathering, vandalism, and neglect threaten the site's ancient structures, including temples and pavilions. Despite restoration efforts, the use of inappropriate methods and slow progress has raised concerns. 

Conservationists urge for immediate action to preserve historic Hampi monuments amid rising damage vkp
First Published May 27, 2024, 10:14 AM IST

Conservationists and residents are calling on state and central archaeology departments to intensify their efforts to protect the decaying monuments of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its historical significance and architectural splendour. There are concerns that various ancient structures, such as temples, mandapams (pavilions), and forts, are deteriorating due to weather exposure and neglect, raising alarms about potential permanent damage.

The elements have not been kind to Hampi's heritage. Structures such as the Salu Mantapa on Virupaksha Ratha Street, Krishna Bazar Salu Mantapa, and the Kalyana Mantapa at Achyut Temple, along with others located in historically significant precincts like those of Dandanayaka, are reported to be in dire states of decay. Similarly, essential components of the Vithala temple complex have been compromised, with fallen stone pillars and damaged walls raising alarms about the site's stability and safety.

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Compounding the physical degradation are the acts of vandalism and theft. Precious idols have been defaced or stolen, and notable structures like the wind tower of the Raghunath temple have been targeted by treasure hunters, adding a layer of criminal threat to the preservation challenges.

Despite ongoing restoration efforts, which have seen some collapsed monuments painstakingly reassembled, the pace and scope of these initiatives have drawn criticism. Locals report that the use of heavy machinery in sensitive excavation areas, despite regulations, has potentially worsened the situation.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the guidance of Deputy Superintendent Nihildas, has acknowledged the urgency of the situation, stating plans to prioritize and systematically restore the most at-risk monuments. The Vijayanagar Memorial Culture Conservation Committee, led by President Vishwanath Malagi, has echoed this commitment, emphasizing the critical condition of several structures including those at Virupaksha Rathabidi and in front of the Hazara Rama Temple.

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The safety concerns are not limited to the monuments themselves but extend to the thousands of visitors who frequent Hampi, especially during major cultural events like the Hampi Utsav, Jatra, and Phalapuja. The fear that deteriorating structures may collapse and cause injuries is a growing worry for both tourists and local authorities.

Officials argue that the effective preservation of Hampi's monuments requires more than just government intervention; local community involvement is crucial to safeguard their heritage. This collective effort is deemed necessary to ensure that these historical treasures are protected for future generations to appreciate and learn from.

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