Join the Effort to Declare Arunachala as a World Heritage Site

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Update: Read the comments. Good points have been raised based on other actual experiences in India with  World Heritage Sites. More comments and discussion are verymuch invited. This may be the last, best effort to preserve Arunachala.

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A new effort has been started to make Arunachala a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Join the effort and sign the petition at Causes.com.  At this site you can:

  • Sign the petition to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
  • Join this effort.
  • Read important notes about World Heritage Sites and benefits of Arunachala becoming one.

Note: Membership in Facebook is required for your to be able to sign the perition.

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From the Causes website:

Arunachala is a mountain of great spiritual significance and power located in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu state, South India. It is extolled in ancient scriptures and was highly revered by the great sage Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in the 20th century. Arunachala and the ashram of Ramana Maharshi (Sri Ramanasramam) located at its base are a pilgrimage site for many thousands of devotees worldwide.

To learn more about Arunachala, see http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/arunachala.html or the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arunachala.

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNESCO for more information). The UNESCO World Heritage Site program designates places around the world as having some special cultural, physical, or religious significance. These sites are named as having outstanding importance to the common heritage of humanity. While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the country wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.

Making Arunachala a World Heritage Site has many practical benefits in addition to the recognition of its importance to humanity, such as bringing attention to the need for preservation and conservation of the site. Once a site is declared a World Heritage Site, UNESCO can provide a variety of resources to help preserve its natural beauty.

If you love Arunachala, please help by signing the petition.

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21 Responses to “Join the Effort to Declare Arunachala as a World Heritage Site”

  1. Viswanathan Iyer Says:

    I visited Ramanashram for the first time in August 2012, and stayed at the Ashram lodging across the road, along with my wife for three days, and was impressed by the way the Ashram affairs are managed. The Ashram though is located on the main road, with loads of traffic, one finds it to be serene and divine once you enter the Ashram. It is a feeling difficult to describe, one can only understand when you visit and stay there for sometime. The food simple, is divine for an Indian, who can enjoy the same for long periods, though my western friends may like to have some changes. As for declaring the temple town as World Heritage site, I doubt it would change the town is maintained, cleanliness around the temple, chaotic traffic near the bus stand etc. But this is the situation in almost all over India, no excuses for it, but we have learnt to live with it. You endure what you cannot change. The lopsided importance given to some factors by the powers that be has spoilt all temple towns to the core, and the Govt. is interested in the temple hundi collections than in maintaining the towns, and provide decent facilities to the poor piligrims. As we Indians are loathe to say everything is in HIS hands.
    As already commented upon by others, I too believe planting more trees and preserving the hills of the temple town is of paramount importance. The politicians and those who are after making more money, will do their utmost to prevent the town or the hill being declared World Heritage Site. This we are witnessing in regard to Western Ghats, one of the richest forest hill ranges, which was declared as Heritage site recently.

  2. kalpa108 Says:

    Perhaps what is needed is a referral back to what happened last time, when, around 2001-2002 UNESCO/World Heritage very much wanted to come and seriously look at the Temple and Hill. It ended up with the Ashram having to withdraw its support for the project under all sorts of pressure from local politicians and businesses, who would have lost their land and illegal buildings on the Hill.

    This petition now seems to be two steps back from this level of reality; it is unknown (perhaps, to me at least) whether Jayalalitha is interested in this at all, and definitely it is unknown as to whether the World Heritage would try again so soon.

    Personally I would welcome a clean up of the Temple area, the public urination and smell on the temple walls where the pilgrimage coaches park, the market area in front of the Eastern gopuram and the whole site could be vastly improved. But I am sure that UNESCO and World heritage will not want to come back so soon.

  3. kevjkelly Says:

    Not sure about the wisdom of getting UNESCO involved. Why should it take an international organisation to care for Arunachala? Will they not come with all manner of expectations and requirements for qualification as a world heritage site? It will then be a UNESCO world heritage site and apparently protected by that patronage. It will attract tourists and could risk eroding the sanctity of a place of contemplation and serious spiritual endeavour. I would be very cautious about this. It may be a longer struggle but ultimately is this not the work of those who love Arunachala and not a UN body; even it it takes decades longer.

  4. pumdv Says:

    Dear Ric

    The first thing we must understand between the temple Ashram and forest is that Forest comes under the central act and all others under state act.
    The state govt also has Minister of forest and environment and I had personal discussion with him and he just drew a blank about the inner path, Means he does not even know what it means and what is going on so what ever is done is done at the level of DFO who maintains his position there by paying hefty sum to his higher ups.
    Now the temple issue is a state subject and even if UNESCO takes over it can only talk about Big Temple and not the surrounding hills.

    IN Mahabalipuram the High court of Madras had asked ASI to go and get public pinion as why it must not be handed over to ASI from state control . The ASI has observed that the amman temple has been so much altered that there is no way any conservation efforts can take place.
    Further the ASI claims that there are many more temples that are so neglected and can be conserved but govt never allocats funds it only tries to adminsiter where already money comes in and destroys what little is left behind.

    Mr Satyamurthy is a retired ASI who has a team of experts who does this kind of scientific way to restore temples and I am work with the existing ASI museum authrotites.
    If you wuld like to have a meeting or doa photo blog I can take you to them any day any time so you can give the readers the exact means as how govt machinery works and how public contribution can work along with them.

    I see from your blog that you want to declare Arunachala as world heritage site and here for westerners it means the hill and the ashram whereas for Indians it means the big temple and other smaller temples attached to Arunachala and not the hill. The hill comes under forest act and they have a mechanism of conservation themself and also with NGOs . Once such is that run as described by Ric in earlier blogs.
    SO before we can find solutions we need to know where responsibility lies and where to put pressure. Let us not go by assumptions and hear say it may worsen matters sometimes.

    I request Ric to come to Chennai and do a blog feature on the Museum of ASI they have lots to offer and the real expert if you need the phone numbers I can give it to you

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Thank you for your comments, and the thought behind them.

      I am sure you are right, that to go anything effective, one must know where the power and authority are, and how these work.

      I have to say that after comments from two people on World Heritage Sites, I am not sure that this would do any good with the issues of Tiruvannamalai. The main reason for my opinion is that both people reported that the basic plans were made ‘from afar’ without much consideration of local inputs, and ideas of the problems and the needs.

      So I am not sure how to best go about any efforts to resolve issues related to Arunachala. I suspect that an import thing to do, though, is to at least get some agreement on what are the issues involved. I think these involve:

      Preservation and protection of Arunachala, and the Inner Path.
      Protecting against further encroachment.
      Determining if any existing encroachment should be removed,
      Arunachala reforestation.
      Fire prevention and suppression.
      Preserving the special sacred nature and use of Arunachala.
      Understanding the local people’s use of Arunachala for their own sustenance and for medicines.
      Handling this issues of Deepam, and the special spiritual rites for Arunachala.

      Sometime when I am going to Chennai, I will be happy to talk with you and to visit the ASI ,useum and learn miore about them. How long do you think this will take? The trip to hard for us now, and we only go when we have to, like for a special dental or medical appointment.

  5. satyaja Says:

    Looking at this issue as a westerner heavily influenced by Eastern tradition, I can see both sides of the issue. Alternatively I could write, as one looking at the issue through the egoic mind as opposed to the pure I Am, which I am in the process of becoming, I can see the different aspects. Of course one must go within the cave of the heart to discover the true Arunachala Siva. However, most humans cannot jump directly to this path. I have spent my life searching and engaging in spiritual practices before I was able to approach and begin to practice the teachings of Ramana, and the path of Who Am I?

    There are many people who need the inspiration of a beautiful manifestation of God to lead them to the goal, lifetime after lifetime. And I cannot say that all but the fully realized, would not appreciate these kinds of manifestations.

    I particularly believe that the reforestation project on Arunachala should be preserved. I see it as a form of divine service. Would anyone offer dead flowers to a deity in a temple or to a living Guru?
    By the same token, if we can possibly prevent it, the mountain should maintain its forest status and not be allowed to dry up into brown underbrush.

    As for maintaining the inner path as an aid to worship by the devout, I also support that idea.

    However, as in all things, we must rely on the Divine Will, which is always manifesting both in the form of seeming good and seeming evil. Whatever will be, will be.

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      I agree that Arunachala should be preserved, and the effort to do so is an important service to Arunachala.

      Divine will also expresses itself though our actions. May we chose to act for the good of Arunachala.

  6. devgogoi Says:

    Rick has hit the nail right on the head, drawing attention to a real-world case history close to home, where paper measures by an uber bureaucracy can become part of the problem, not the solution. Good intentions and worthy causes are not at issue here. If only a few feel-good clicks on a computer screen were the answer 😦

    In Tiruvannamalai recently, the state forest department with exemplary dedication to duty and conscientious application of existing rules, strictly prohibited public entry into Annamalai Reserve Forest areas, an initiative widely reported in the local media. Ironically, Day One of this ban was marked by yet another bush fire on Arunachala!

    Next time you want to help douse a forest fire on the Mountain, or plant a tree for that matter, guess who’s looking over your shoulder?

    And what of “Inner Pradakshina?” The practice has defaulted to the precise place where it always was and will ever remain: within the heart of the devotee.

    Long, long ago in a universe far, far away, a Buddha was enlightened under a bodhi tree. A little further to the south stood a Hill, silent and still. Where was the UN then, and where will it be tomorrow?

    Post your answers here 🙂

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      From what Rick Peterson and pundv have said, it seems like it is not likely that World Heritage Site is a solution to the issues of Arunachala. I have to ask is there any solution to the ongoing problems of Arunachala?

      These include encroachment, where the land developers have long term interests in development, and the local and Forest Department administrators come and go? Collectors and DFOs have a fairly short term of local power, and often have no local background to rely upon to understand the issues.

      Issues also include reforestation, fire prevention and suppression, and care and protection of the Inner path as of great spiritual importance (not as a tourist attraction).

      Is this a possible area where a local group or trust could play a role that would be respected by the collector and DFO (and Ramanasramam and the Big Temple)?

    • devgogoi Says:

      Richard, yes, I do believe there are solutions to the problems challenging the future of Tiruvannamalai. I don’t have the answers but ask around and there will be plenty of ideas forthcoming.

      Existing entities in civil society have either been proven ineffectual (don’t ask and you shall be told no names 🙂 or are fully engaged at their micro level. There’s always room for new agents of change and one wishes that they would manifest sooner rather than later.

      What needs to be shared, in my view, is a long-term, macro-level strategic plan to which every individual element (professionals, philanthropists, schools, NGOs, government departments) can contribute in a synergestic manner.

      As ever, Arunachala Rules!

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Dev, Thanks for your comment.

      I agree we need some kind of working long term approach to the issues of Arunachala. One part of this is to agree on the issues. Here is a list I had made in a reply to another reader:

      Preservation and protection of Arunachala, and the Inner Path.
      Protecting against further encroachment.
      Determining if any existing encroachment should be removed,
      Arunachala reforestation.
      Fire prevention and suppression.
      Preserving the special sacred nature and use of Arunachala.
      Understanding the local people’s use of Arunachala for their own sustenance and for medicines.
      Handling this issues of Deepam, and the special spiritual rites for Arunachala.

      Do you think this is on the right trac? What would you add, change or delete?

  7. rmbowes Says:

    Sorry, I tried to sign petition; but I don’t have a Facebook account. After reading some of the comments, I’m glad I couldn’t sign the petition.
    And Richard, in regard to your comment about “…how do we preserve Arunachala over the long haul?” My comment would be: Arunachala is Shiva. Shiva will preserve Shiva…….

  8. pumdv Says:

    Dear Ric
    As a close associate of ASI in Mahabalipuram which is declared as Heritage ste it has created an havoc in that place. Only tody the inquiry has completed as how to maintain the monuments.

    First of all what the ASI says in terms of conservation is that when ever the site is declared as heritage it is then out of bonds to give any kind of permission to construct within a perimeter of 300m and no electrical suppply granted.

    The enitre administration changes hands from state to central govt. The UNESCO does not understand between livign god and names them as Monument, Imagine the situation when Arunachala is called here after as a monument?

    The western laws are followed and the ASI under whose clutches this comes does not have adequate funds and manpower to do any kind of job.

    So the idea of calling something as heritage does not mean anythign other than bracketing it into one more monument and treatign it like a non living structures for tourist attraction.

    REACH Foundation is the only foundation that has technical know how of how to conserve what they call as Living Monuments and this is run by A retired ASI officer and he says money as little as 200 USD is enough to conserve any temples in a scientific way but this money is contributed only by local public and never by UNESCO who just lend their brand name and notheing more than finding a place in Lonely Planet.

    I think UNESCO Must come under Arunachala and not vice versa.

    Let us have faith in our own ability to go beyond UNESCO classification and make it a livig god and not just a monument.

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Thanks for what you have contributed. It sound like the possible Indian administration of any World Heritage Site is not to be relied upon to actually deal with the issues. What about this REACH Foundation? Who are they? Can they help?

  9. cspacenz Says:

    World Heritage Site ?

    Come to Arunachala and NOT walk on the Inner Path !!!

  10. Rick Peterson Says:

    I think this is a bad idea. At Many world heritage sites the price for admission goes way up, such as the Konark Temple in Puri went from 5 rupees to 500 rupees. In Bodh Gaya there was so much resistance to the whole Heritage master plan that it was scrapped after several years, and it is apparent there too that UNESCO is more viewing it as a cultural heritage site not as a living temple. So they want to charge lots on money for people to visit, not sympathetic to the devotees who visit every day. These are not religious or spiritual people who will take over the hill, and I fear it will cause lots of problems for the locals as well as devotees who heartfully want to visit Arunachala

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      I hear you. One question (that probably does not have an easy answer) is how do we preserve Arunachala over the long haul? Local governments and administrators come and go. Forest Department Officers come and go. The pressures of encroachment are steady and continuing.

  11. Stephen Curtis Satzinger Says:

    thank you for this opportunity

  12. kalpa108 Says:

    I could not sign on. You have to be a member of Facebook to sign the petition! This makes the petition look trite and casual.

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Sorry. I did not set up the petition, was only letting people know about it. I was FB user so did not see the problem. I will let the person who set up the petition know.

  13. paritalagopikrishna Says:

    Very good effort. May God guide and bless. Love and Love alone ..

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