Projecting soft power: How India is restoring cultural symbols beyond its shores

The 12th c Ananda Temple Modi visited in Myanmar isn’t the only one that India is helping renovate. There are others too, in Laos, Vietnam, SL, Nepal, Cambodia.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi | Published: September 14, 2017 12:21 am
Ananda Temple, cultural symbols, indian cultural symbols, indian temples, Ta Prohm Temple, Cham Monuments, Thiruketeeswaram Temple, indian express Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Ananda Temple in Bagan, Myanmar. PTI photo

During his visit to Myanmar last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the historic Ananda Temple in Bagan, which he described in a tweet as “beautiful & blissful”. In two subsequent tweets, posted on September 6, he said, “It is a matter of immense pride that ASI [Archaeological Survey of India] has carried out structural conservation and chemical preservation work of the Temple”, and that “ASI has been undertaking many major conservation projects across Asia”.

The Prime Minister offered prayers at the Bagan temple, and did a parikrama, during which ASI representatives explained the restoration process. The Buddhist temple, a masterpiece of Mon architecture, was built around 1105 by King Kyansittha of Burma. In 2010, India and Myanmar signed a restoration agreement, and New Delhi allocated Rs 20 crore for ASI’s effort. The project is near completion, and ASI has, in addition, restored several murals and pagodas that were damaged in an earthquake last year.

India has deep cultural ties with southeast Asian nations, and from time to time carries out restoration work at temples overseas. Funds are released through the Ministry of External Affairs as part of India’s diplomatic outreach to these nations. The ASI, under the Ministry of Culture, is the implementing agency. Work can go on for decades, and is often monitored by third-party agencies such as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Costs include that of deputing ASI staff and artisans, and the MEA releases funds, through the local Indian mission, based on utilisation on the ground. The countries where the ASI works sometimes pitch in with help on the board and lodging of the restoration team.


Ananda Temple, cultural symbols, indian cultural symbols, indian temples, Ta Prohm Temple, Cham Monuments, Thiruketeeswaram Temple, indian express Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm Temple,
Estimated cost: Rs 34 crore

Restoration work was initiated in 2004, project is currently in its third phase. ASI has so far taken up work at nine important sites in the complex. IIT-Madras has provided back-end support. Significant is the work on the Hall of Dancers.

Cham Monuments
Cost over five years: Rs 14.21 crore

In 2010, as part of a India-Vietnam cultural exchange programme, a two-member ASI team visited Vietnam to make a preliminary assessment of the task to conserve the Cham monuments, including the UNESCO World Heritage My Son group of temples constructed by the kings of Champa between the 4th and 14th centuries AD. An MoU was signed in October 2014, and execution of the project began with three group of temples.

Thiruketeeswaram Temple
Tentative cost: Rs 13.35 crore

The project to extensively restore the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was commissioned under a India-Sri Lanka bilateral agreement, and ASI carried out a study in August 2010. The stones for the mahamandapa were carved by craftsmen in Mamallapuram.

Wat Phou Temple Complex
Estimated cost: Rs 18.5 crore

Work on restoring the Northern Quadrange of the complex has been on since 2009. The first phase of the project was executed last year; work on the second phase is currently on. An MoU to extend the project by another 10 years may be signed soon.

Ananda Temple, cultural symbols, indian cultural symbols, indian temples, Ta Prohm Temple, Cham Monuments, Thiruketeeswaram Temple, indian express Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple
Kathmandu, NEPAL
Estimated cost: Rs 24.26 crore

Following the Prime Minister’s return from Nepal after attending the 18th SAARC Summit in 2014, the MEA announced a mega plan to restore and conserve the Pashupatinath temple. A draft MoU between ASI and the Pashupatinath Temple Trust was drawn up, and an ASI team visited the temple complex to make an assessment of the work and requirement of funds. The MoU mentions a grant of Rs 24.26 crore, and work is expected to start as soon as funds are released.

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  1. N
    Sep 18, 2017 at 12:12 am
    "Significant is the work on the Hall of Dancers." The author of this piece seems to be a Star Wars fan. Speak like Yoda, he/she does. :D
    1. S
      Sep 17, 2017 at 11:31 am
      Buddhists were lower caste people in India who were mercilessly driven out. That is how Buddhism spread around Asia. Only the Buddhists in Bengal could not resist the joint Brahamanical and Islamic assults to capitulate to their present situation.
      1. K
        Sep 17, 2017 at 9:08 am
        restoring is more expensive than building b new from scratch
        1. A
          Sep 17, 2017 at 1:15 am
          It is very satisfying that India is helping preserve history abroad. Will appreciate if information is projected regarding similar action in respect of ancient temples and other religious monuments in India. Thanks.
          1. John Ssb
            Sep 14, 2017 at 11:35 am
            It's good that pm modi is doing this but what Abt old religions buildings of india many of them even 1000 years old
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