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Dilemma over painting restored Abhayagiri Temple

2013 Jun 25

by Wickrema Ralapanawa

 


Restoration work at the ancient Abhayagiri Temple, declared as a heritage site by UNESCO, that commenced in 1997, under the direction of the Central Cultural Fund, has now been completed. The temple was originally built by King Walagambahu, Circa BC.

 

 

However, consequent to the restoration, a new issue has surfaced, leaving archaeologists in a quandary. Reportedly, some politicians had said the structure of the temple should be painted white, which archaeologists say is against conditions laid down by UNESCO with regard to ancient sites. Similar to Sanchi – the oldest stone structure in India and Boro Budhur – the famous Buddhist temple in Java, the Abhayagiri Temple too should be maintained in its natural, pristine form as painting it in any colour, even white, would 'rob' it of its original appearance.

Sources said if any person or body decides to paint the ancient temple, irrespective of the colour, it would stand to lose its status as a heritage site.

 

 

The Chief Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter had given instructions on the material to be used in the restoration of the temple, based on its original form and structure. Sources said therefore, the appearance of the temple cannot be changed to suit the whims and fancies of politicians. They cited the case of the Mirisawatiya which site had been painted, going against its original appearance, and expressed concern that the same 'fate' should not befall the Abhayagiri Temple.

 

 

Reportedly, work in connection with the restoration of the historic temple had been delayed due to lack of funds. But now with the restoration completed, work on the access road which also needed repairs is being done, and is expected to be completed soon, sources added.

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