BHABHUA (Kaimur district): One of the oldest surviving Centrally-protected monuments in the country — Mundeshwari temple — in Maoist-hit Kaimur district is not safe. A major theft was averted in the over 1600-year-old temple last month when thieves tried to break open the main entrance gate of the main sanctum sanctorum.
Barely five Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) monument attendants are posted on the temple premises to look after the safety of the monument. The entire premises is virtually left to the mercy of God without any armed forces and power supply. The temple situated atop a 608 feet hill is the ‘oldest functional temple’ in the country where regular prayers have been performed for the past several hundred years.
One of the ASI monument attendants, Bhola Ram, in a recent letter to the ASI superintending archaeologist, Patna Circle, said that on December 20 last some of the thieves managed to enter the temple premises from its western flank by cutting the fenced wall past midnight. Taking advantage of darkness, they started breaking the grill of the main entrance gate of the sanctorum, the letter said.
“After hearing some strange sound we immediately rushed to the main entrance gate, but by that time they managed to escape leaving behind sharp-edged tools, screw driver, knives and sharp razor,” Ram told TOI.
“We are feeling helpless without any support. We keep vigil on the premises throughout the night without any security. We immediately need a security force to protect the temple as well as the donation box kept inside the temple,” he said. “We have urged the ASI to take steps for removing the donation box. We are yet to get any response from the ASI as well as from the local administration. The local Bhagwanpur police station refused to lodge an FIR,” he said.
ASI official Neeraj, posted at nearby Sasaram district town, also admitted that a major theft was averted at the temple. But the Patna Circle ASI office feigned ignorance about the incident. “We will look into the matter,” said an ASI official here.
Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts (BSBRT) chairman Acharya Kishore Kunal said that there was a proposal to install solar lighting in and around the temple, but the forest department is yet to get the clearance. “We are not able to build the boundary wall of the temple,” Kunal told TOI. “A theft was also reported way back in 1968 on the temple premises,” said an old timer.
Experts said that the temple has been subject of archaeological study for quite some time now. While the sanctum sanctorum has a ‘devi’ idol situated in a corner, a ‘Chaturmukh Shivalinga’ adorns the centre.
The main deities in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple are Devi Mundeshwari and Chaturmukh (four faced) Shivalinga. A substantial part of the stone structure has been damaged, and many stone fragments are seen strewn around the temple.
The temple is visited by a large number of pilgrims each year, particularly during the Ramnavami and Shivratri festivals.