Rein in Kanuma revellers at Buddhist site, collector urged

by Venkatesh Bayya, TNN Jan 8, 2014

VISAKHAPATNAM, India -- Worried about the impact of the annual Jatara on the Bojjannakonda-Lingalametta Buddhist site near Anakapalle on January 15, heritage conservationists have sought police protection for the ancient heritage site. Office bearers of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) have already written to the district collector seeking police protection.

Close to a lakh people attend the annual Jatara that is held during Kanuma celebrations a day after Sankranti when people are usually in high spirits. On the pretext of driving away the devil, the locals cause a great deal of damage to the structure by pulling out bricks and throwing them into the caves at the site, said sources.

R Appala Narasimham a resident of the nearby Tummapala village said, "Not only do they vandalise the site by damaging the brickwork, at the end of the day the whole place is littered with booze bottles and plastic carry bags. This is a classic case of pilgrims desecrating their own place of worship."

Talking about the irreverent and callous attitude of the locals, former Intach-Vizag convenor Rani Sarma said, "We are not against the Jatara, nor do we wish to question the beliefs or superstitions of the local public. We are concerned about the protection of the sites as we feel that these sites, that were under occupation from 300 BC to 700 AD, must be shown some reverence."

While Intach sources disclosed that former collectors such as V Seshadri and J Shyamala Rao had indeed provided the necessary police force to prevent vandalism at the site, they are worried that if the new collector does not act swiftly, much of the site could be vandalized this year during Kanuma celebrations.

According to Intach-Vizag convenor P V Prasad, things had improved much after former district collector J Shyamala Rao had responded by providing a strong police force to protect the site. "Things have been looking better in the last three years with the district administration providing the necessary police force to protect the site. More than 50 cops are being deployed ever year on that particular day to help prevent damage to the site. More importantly we are doing our best to raise awareness amongst the general public," Prasad explained.

Rani Sarma was of the opinion that providing protection to the site should be made compulsory. "We shoot off reminders because we have had four district collectors in the last four years. Hopefully this year the present collector too will respond to our call for protecting the site."