It is the second religious ceremony in three days at the site, which ASI has called a “site of national significance”. ASI does not allow prayers at a protected site unless it is a functioning place of worship at the time the organization takes charge of it.
A press release issued by Sinha’s office said he participated in a “navagraha ashatamangalm pooja” at the temple, which was “held in the presence of saints, members of the Kashmiri Pandit community and local residents”. .
It is unclear whether the administration has obtained clearance from ASI for the event. The press release did not mention whether ASI clearance had been obtained for the pooja. ASI officials were not available for comment.
The leader of the group who held a pooja on May 6 told The Indian Express that they did not get permission from ASI because it was a Hindu temple and worshipers should be allowed to organize religious ceremonies and to offer prayers.
According to the press release, the LG “reiterated the government’s commitment to protect and develop ancient sites of cultural and spiritual significance.” He was quoted as saying that the administration “is making dedicated efforts to transform J&K’s historic spiritual places into vibrant centers that will guide us along the path of righteousness…”
Priests for the ceremony were flown in from Kerala, The Indian Express has learned. As the LG took part in the rituals, several members of its security personnel rang the area where the pooja was being held. The site was turned into a fortress for most of the day.
A contingent of Kashmiri Pandits affiliated with the Panun Kashmir group were present, as was former BJP Assembly member Surinder Ambardar. Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Pandurang K Pole, IGP K Vijay Kumar, Deputy Commissioner Piyush Singla and other officials accompanied Sinha.
Hindu groups have periodically called for the temple to be opened for worship, but no religious ceremonies were previously allowed at the site, although individual devotees were not barred from offering prayers, local sources said. Mostly it was a picnic site for locals.
Since the August 2019 constitutional changes to J&K’s statute, Hindu groups including the Kashmiri Pandit community have been calling for the restoration of Hindu temples in Kashmir. Most requests have focused on temples that operated until the 1990s, when most Kashmiri Pandits fled the valley in the face of militancy.
These requests have increased over the past three months and have been expanded to include protected sites such as the Martand Temple. On May 6, a group of over 100 people led by the mahant of a Hindu peeth based in Karauli, Rajasthan, recited the Bhagvad Gita and Hanuman Chalisa in Martand.
In November 2021, the National Monuments Authority, headed by Tarun Vijay, former editor of the RSS Panchajanya newspaper and former Rajya Sabha MP, said in a statement that it planned to bid for site status of the UNESCO World Heritage for Martand, among others. J&K websites.
Throughout the country, religious worship in protected monuments has been a difficult issue over the years. According to Rule 7(1) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules 1959, meetings, receptions, parties, entertainment or conferences may not take place in a protected monument without the written permission of the central government. Rule 7(2) states that this does not apply to any event held “under recognized religious usage or custom”. However, all governments, including the current government, have stuck to the practice of not allowing religious activities or events at sites that were not ‘living’ places of worship at the time of their designation as monuments. protected by the UPS.
As such, prayers are not permitted at the mosque within the Qutub Minar compound despite requests from local Muslims. Similarly, religious worship and rituals are prohibited in the 12th century Sidhpur Mahalaya temple in the Pattan district of Gujarat and in the Shore temple in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. But they are allowed at Shri Jagannath Temple in Puri and Jama Masjid in Delhi as they were “living” monuments, functioning temples at the time the ASI took them over.