Hyderabad: Carvings of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, who is popularly known as KCR, and his party’s election symbol (car) on the pillars of the Yadadri temple led to protests by Hindu groups in the state on Friday.
Temple authorities, however, claimed sculptor concerned did the carvings ‘out of adulation’ for KCR. The carvings also included popular government schemes and initiatives, like ‘Haritha Haram’ (plantation drive taken up across the state) and ‘Shaadi Mubarak’ (financial assistance scheme for marriages of women from economically weaker backgrounds).
While the issue has drawn widespread criticism, temple officials and design directors said there were no orders from the state government in this regard. “There are 3,000 such designs and carving Rao’s image or government schemes were not part of the plan. There were no such order from the government and we’ve not asked the sculptors to do it. They must have done it out of respect for the leaders and there’s nothing wrong in it. We do give the sculptor the freedom to carve some of his own designs,” temple Architect Anand Sai told News18.
The Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple in Yadadri, also known as Yadagirigutta, situated about 70km from Hyderabad, is one of the largest in the state and is considered Telangana’s ‘Tirumala’. A major revamp at a cost of Rs 1,800 crore is underway and the chief minister is said to have taken personal interest in it. On the agenda is a 11-acre temple complex with seven domes, 1,400 tourist facilities consisting of cottages, multilevel parking and housing for temple priests.
“It a tradition to carve images of our forefathers on temple premises and there’s nothing wrong in it. If you visit Tirumala, one will find Krishnadevaraya’s carvings. There are similar inscriptions in Thanjavur as well,” Anand said. Krishnadevaraya had ruled over the Vijayanagara empire during 1509–1529.
“Through these carvings, we’re letting our future generations know about history. The ‘car’ carved here is not the party symbol, but to give our future generations an idea about the kind of transport we use in our times. There’s a carving of a cycle as well,” he added.
Along with carvings of the car that have uncanny resemblance to the TRS party symbol, there’s a lotus (BJP symbol) chiselled on one of the pillars. These carvings have been done on pillars in the ‘mandap’ (outer radius) that would primarily would be used for relaxation, Anand added.
A local Bajrang Dal leader N Subash told News18, “This is a holy place. KCR is not a God. Why should his image or government schemes be carved on the temple’s pillars? There is no place for politics in a temple, and if someone tries to do it, we know how to tackle it.”
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders also slammed the chief minister and said the latter was ‘desecrating the temple’ and warned him of ‘dire consequences’ if the carvings were not removed immediately. Party leaders have planned to visit the temple on Saturday.
“This temple is being renovated with public money, not with party funds. It’s not the TRS’ temple. I want to ask the chief minister if he is aware of what is happening at the temple. If yes, then we demand he takes immediate action to get them down. If he doesn’t take them off, I will take people with me and get them down,” BJP MLA Raja Singh told News18.
BJP leader K Laxman said the TRS government was trying to belittle Hindu religions by resorting to such acts. Stating that the move reflected the intention of the KCR-led government to promote itself.
He further said KCR was trying to appease the Congress and Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) by carving images of former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Charminar (a landmark monument located in Hyderabad).
Congress leader Vijayashanthi also took pot-shots at the chief minister and said the latter was thinking of himself as a king and trying to emulate former rulers who used to have inscriptions of their works on historic structures and monuments.
However, the sculptors, who were involved in renovation project, have refused to take down the carvings. “We have depicted Telangana government’s symbol to refer to the time and period of the temple restoration work for future times, may be a thousand year later. Rao is true devotee and I never felt anything wrong while depicting him in my carvings,” said sculptor Hari Prasad. The temple special officer, Kishan Rao, said once any design is carved, it will not be taken down.
(With inputs from PV Ramana Kumar)