CHENNAI: Art of Living (AoL), headed by Sri Sri Ravishankar, has got into trouble once again for organising an extravagant programme at the wrong place. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered an interim stay on its planned two-day event that was to begin on Friday in the picturesque Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. The temple is listed as a heritage site by the UNESCO.
The Madurai bench also asked the authorities to remove any structure constructed on the temple complex.
The stay was on a PIL filed by Venkatesh, a Thanjavur resident, who sought cancellation of permission to the AoL programme on the grounds of conserving the world heritage site. He pointed out that the Art of Living group had similarly conducted a programme on the Yamuna floodplains in New Delhi, which had caused extensive ecological damage.
Curiously, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) had granted permission to the group to conduct a ‘meditation’ programme inside the temple complex.
After the stay came into effect, AoL announced a change in venue to the nearby Kaveri Mandapam, via a press release, but also added that it was normal to conduct spiritual programmes in temples and that had done so after getting permission from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and ASI.
However, it is unusual for ASI to allow private parties to conduct programmes in such heritage sites. The temple authority said they received the permission letter a month ago, after which they forwarded the letter of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of ASI, which instructed them to make necessary arrangements for the programme, reported Scroll.
The Brihadiswara temple is one of the largest South Indian temples, built by Raja Raja Chola I between 1003 and 1010 AD. Also known as the ‘great living Chola temple’, it was declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO and has been under the care of ASI.
In 2016, the Art of Living group had fallen foul of environmentalists when it conducted an international event named World Culture Fest in the floodplains of Yamuna. The event was conducted among controversies and protests. Following the programme, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) held the organisation accountable for the damage caused and imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore. NGT also stated that the Art of Living Group would have to pay money needed to repair the floodplains if it exceeds the fine. An expert committee which evaluated the damage stated in its report that the floodplains lost almost all the natural vegetation, according to a report in The Hindu.