In what is reckoned to be unique in the annals of conservation and restoration in the country, a non-governmental organisation is set to complete the restoration of 250 ancient temples of architectural and cultural significance that had been languishing in neglect.
The project, of Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Dharmothana Trust (SDMDT), is set to hit the 250-temple mark this financial year. Of these, 175 projects have been executed with the support of the State government under a public-private partnership (PPP) model of conservation launched in 2001-02.
As of date, the Trust has completed the restoration and conservation of 237 ancient temples across the State. Work on 13 temples is in progress. “We will complete the 250th restoration in the current financial year. Work on the 13 temples is in various stages of completion,” said A.H. Hariram Shetty, director of SDMDT. He said the total amount spent on restoration works over the years is ₹28.53 crore.
Besides this, the SDMDT has identified for restoration an additional 15 monuments spread across nine districts in the State. A ₹4-crore proposal has been submitted to the State government for approval, said Mr. Shetty.
Of the 15 temples identified, three each are in Chikkamagaluru, Mysuru and Tumakuru, while there is one each in Belagavi, Chamarajanagar, Dakshina Kannada, Hassan, Shivamogga and Uttara Kannada.
In the initial few years, the Trust was taking up the exercise entirely on its own. But the restoration projects received a fillip when the State government introduced the PPP model. “This was a great help and the government has continuously funded the project over the years without break,” Mr. Shetty said.
Under the PPP model, the government contributes 40% of the costs while any voluntary organisation engaged in restoration contributes a matching amount. The local community has to contribute the remaining 20% so as to get a sense of ownership of the restored monuments. The community also has to take care of the monument after restoration.
For Karnataka, which has over 30,000 unprotected monuments, in addition to 780 protected ones under the control of the Archaeology Department, the PPP model is reckoned to be the way forward to overcome cash crunch in protecting monuments. But there have not been many other such collaborative initiatives so far.