Conservation by ASI
The measures that have adopted for the conservation of Konark temple have become a part of the history due to its extensiveness. Though the temple was built in 13th century but it drew the attention of Government for its conservation only in the last part of the 19th century.
At first, in 1806 Marine Board requested the Vice-President in Council to take measures against the removal of the stones and to ascertain the cost for t he preservation of the edifice. But the Governor General did not agree to the proposal of conservation due to involvement of heavy expenditure. However he directed the Magistrate of Cuttack to prevent removal of stones. Had the Government listened to the advice of the Marine Board, a portion of the tower could perhaps have been saved for prosperity, for the sanctuary had stood nearly 3m. higher than the porch.
Then in 1838, after depredation of the Raja of Khurda, the Asiatic Society of Bengal requested the Government to take care of this famous Government property. The Deputy Governor of Bengal, however, declined to interfere with the temple, except in case of spoilation and injury by individuals.
At last due to the silence of Government in 1859 the Asiatic Society of Bengal proposed to remove the nava-graha architrave to the Indian Museum in Calcutta. As a first attempt in 1867 the nava-graha slab had been carried to a short distance, which was 3 km. far away from the sea by which the stone was to be dispatched and then all the money exhausted. So the mission failed again.
In 1881, the Bengal Government instructed Public Works Department to take preservation works. Besides jungle clearance, the only work done in 1882-83 was that the colossal pairs of elephants, horses and lions-on-elephants, which had originally stood in front of the three staircase of the porch were mounted on masonry platforms in front of, but some meters away from the respective staircase. Unfortunately, they were set in wrong positions with their faces towards the temple instead of away from it. To make matter still worse, the two lions-on-elephants had been erected on the top of a mound, which on clearance of sand later, revealed a large pillared hall, bhogomandap (offering hall).
In 1892, the Lieutenant Governor Sir Charles A. Eliot felt the necessity of conservation of temple. So he inclined to grant a moderate sum for the upkeep of the buildings by jungle clearance and for buttressing the hanging parts and also for collection and transportation of the fallen sculptures including the nava-graha architrave to the Indian Museum. So a second attempt was made to bring the nava-graha architrave to Calcutta but it failed to do so. In 1893 due to the objection of local people, the Bengal Government ordered the Public Works Department not to touch it in future. So the slab had been left there till the second decade of the 19th century. Thirteen sculptured pieces, however, brought to Calcutta in 1894 and are now in the Indian Museum. Lastly the development work of Kanark was avoided for a long time in the face of uncombatable difficulties and huge expenses incurred in course of its recovery.
Fully impressed with the necessity and urgency of the structural repairs to the shattering fabric of the temple, Sir John Woodburn, in December 1990, issued an order to the effect. In February 1901, T. Block, Archeological Surveyor of the Bengal Circle, submitted a note to the Government of Bengal suggesting the unearthing of the buried portion of the temple compound, the reflecting of the broken mouldings on the walls of the porch and the preservations of the portions standing in a dangerous position. The Government of Bengal accepted the suggestions, and an estimate was prepared almost immediately for clearing the sand around the porch and the compound wall and excavating rubbish and stones from the basement of the porch.
The clearance of sand and stones on three sides of the porch gradually brought to light the superb berm along with horses and wheels and several structures including the Mukhasala. To save Mukhasala they constructed another wall inside the Mukhasala of 15 feet breadth and closed all the doors of Mukhasala after filling up the inside by sand. These measures saved the Mukhasala or whatever remained of it from the ravages of time. It stands still wonderful in the minds of its visitors who remain wonderstruck in its architectural beauty. With much difficulty, finding the broken parts of western and southern sides of Mukhasala, attempts were made to save the ruined Mukhasala from collapse. Repair works of Mukhasala and Naata Mandir was completed in 1905.
In 1906, the two lion-on-elephants, installed on the top of the Bhoga-mandapa, were gently brought down and planted not in their original position but in front of the eastern staircase of this very structure. The clearance of the mammoth pile of debris to the west of the porch was taken up towards the end of 1905. This brought to light not only the existing portion of the sanctuary with three chlorite images of the parsvadevatas and the carved platform inside the sanctum sanctorum, but also a large number of chlorite sculptures. The security of the images of the parsva-devatas was ensured by building niches around them. As the entrance to the sanctum was blocked with the filling of the porch, an access to it was provided by a flight of steps from the extant top of its west wall.
Along with these works was taken up, in 1906, a large-scale plantation of the casuarina and poonang trees in the direction of the sea, so as to check the advance of the drifting sand and thereby to minimize the effect of the abrasive action of the sand-laden winds.
The removal of sand and debris behind the sanctuary exposed, in 1909, the extant portion of a beautiful Mayadevi temple.
Thus, by 1910 the initial task of conservation, incorporating all the items essential for rendering the monument stable, was completed at a cost of nearly a lakh of rupees.
Attention to the monuments continued even afterwards, and by 1922 all the major structural repairs like the rebuilding of the wall-tops of the sanctuary of main temple and Mayadevi temple and the Bhoga-mandapa and making them watertight by laying concrete on the exposed tops. The restoration of missing stones and pointing the open joints were more or less complete. More casuarina trees were planted. Sand and fallen stones continued to be removed. Lightning-conductors were also fixed, while a sculpture-shed was constructed in 1915 to house the images and important carved pieces.
Since then small-scale repairs, like the clearance of vegetation, re-setting of loose stones, pointing and filling in the crevices were effected annually till 1953. Main temple and Mayadevi temple also received chemical treatment by way of removal of moss and lichen, elimination of injurious salts by the application of paper-pulp and fungicidal treatment for some years beginning with 1938-39. Till 1938 the actual conservation works were the responsibility of the provincial Public Works Department, the Archeological Survey of India working only in an inspecting and advising capacity. Since 1939, the works have been carried out departmentally by the Archeological Survey of India.
The monument was inspected in1949 by the Executive Engineer of the Archeological Survey of India, who observed certain major damages. It was felt, even after the sustained work for half a century.However large-scale repairs and chemical treatment were still needed. In 1950, the Government of India appointed a committee of experts on archaeological conservation, engineering, art, architecture, geology and chemistry to go into the whole question of the preservation of the monuments and to find out appropriate measures for prolonging their life. The principal recommendations of the Committee were: (i) testing of humidity contents inside the sealed porch of main temple; (ii) making of the entire main temple watertight from outside by grouting, filling in of joints, rectification of wrong slopes and concreting the tops of the irregular masonry; (iii) removal of sand from the compound with necessary provision for drainage of water; (iv) rebuilding of the damaged compound-wall to the height of the original coping; (v) chemical treatment of the surface; and (vi) planting of a thick belt of casuarina and cashew-nut trees in the direction of the sea so as to produce a screening and shielding effect for the temple both from sand drift and consequent attrition.
Since 1953 the recommendations have been persistently followed up by the Archeological Survey of India.
Now both the Central and State Governments are taking vigorous steps for preservation of the temple and improvement of Konark. Government have taken up the management and for development of Konark a Master Plan is being prepared. A marine drive is now under construction from Konark to Puri keeping the blue sea in one side and the casuarina plantation on the other. A Light House has also been established at Konark. It is hoped that once again Konark would become a prominent township and a center of international tourists and would attract the visitors from all over the world as it was doing in the days of yore.