500-yr-old Srikalahasti gopuram collapses
The entire ‘Rajagopuram’ of the 500-year-old Srikalahasti temple — popularly known as ‘Dakshina Kaasi’ — in Chittoor collapsed on Wednesday night. There were no human casualties, but at least 100 monkeys living on the temple premises perished. Locals and experts attributed the collapse to unbridled drilling for borewells in the area. Cracks on the 136-ft gopuram were noticed a week back and timely intervention could have saved the historic monument. But it was only on Tuesday that an expert team of three from Chennai inspected the temple and declared the area around the gopuram extending up to 150 metres as a “danger zone”. Thirtysix families living in the vicinity were evacuated on Tuesday night. By Wednesday a portion of it crumbled at around 8.10pm. Twenty minutes later the entire structure built by Srikrishnadevaraya collapsed. But, miraculously, as the debris fell, Krishnadevaraya’s statue right in front of the gopuram was left unscathed. The architectural marvel was built by Vijayanagara ruler Srikrishnadevaraya in 1516 AD to celebrate his victory over Gajapathi kingdom. The incident created panic among pilgrims, who blamed the negligence of officials and temple board members for the mishap. While the cracks became prominent in the past four days, it is learnt that narrow crevices had started appearing almost a month ago. According to sources, vibrations from borewell digging in the temple vicinity directly contributed to the collapse. Though some temple officials said the cracks were due to heavy rains and constant soaking, experts largely attributed it to the rampant borewell digging. “The temple had developed cracks in the late 80s too. In 1996, TTD had helped in renovation to fill the breaches,” a temple official said. The temple rakes in an annual revenue of nearly Rs 100 crore.