A paint job with bright colors on the steps of the famous Hindu temple complex in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a hit among social media users but it has also invited the wrath of the National Heritage Department (JWN) officials, who said that no permission was taken for the multi-hued makeover at the national heritage site.
The Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple is located at the top of a staircase consisting of 272 steps at the Batu Caves complex. This temple is devoted to Lord Murugan and is a famous site among Tamil Hindus and other Indian ethnic groups in Malaysia. It attracts a large number of tourists every year.
The controversy started when the management committee of the temple got the stairs painted in bright colors, drawing disapproval from the JWN. The temple management cited an upcoming consecration ceremony on Aug. 31 as the reason behind the new look of the entrance.
Since the temple is a national heritage site listed under the National Heritage Registry in Malaysia, any application for its renovation must go through the heritage department, the Straits Times reported.
The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has also asked it to prepare a report for further action, Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik told the Star.
“I am very disappointed with the building management (Tan Sri R. Nadarajah), especially when the department’s officers informed me that they had met his son Datuk N. Sivakumar a few times, advising him that any renovation or painting job within 200m of the heritage site requires written permission from the department,” Wan Chik was quoted as saying.
“He was aware that any building registered under the heritage registry must comply with the regulations under the Act,” he said, adding, “In fact, even before the application is submitted to the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS), they need to get the green light from the department first.”
The JWN conservators were unhappy because the temple management did not obtain the department’s permission prior to the renovation, which is required under Section 40 of the National Heritage Act 2005, Sentosa assemblyman G. Gunaraj told StarMetro.
“I was told that in accordance with the Act’s Section 40 requirements, the temple management must refer to the department to identify best conservation methods when there is any development or renovation work done in close proximity to a national heritage site. This is to ensure the integrity and legacy of the heritage structure is maintained,” Gunaraj said, as per the report.
He added that according to his contacts in JWN, the paint works and renovation were not in harmony with the surroundings and the paintjob was actually a “disaster” for a heritage site.
“They are disappointed that efforts to get the temple listed as a heritage site might have been in vain, as the paint job could lead to the temple being delisted,” he said.
Batu Caves Sri Mahamariamman Temple Devasthanam committee chairman Tan Sri R. Nadarajah was quoted by the Star as saying that they had the necessary approvals for renovations. “The paint job does not require any approval. For the renovation, we had approval from Selayang Municipal Council (MPS). Since we are not constructing any new building, we did not need to seek approval from JWN,” he said.
He also told the publication that for the event on Aug.31, all 13 temples of Batu Caves were renovated.
Rosli Mohd. Ali, who is committee member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) Malaysia, said, that although renovations at Batu Caves have been going on for a long time, the management must get consent from JWN for the activities. “The temple committee cannot expect the temple to be on the heritage list and yet do whatever they like,’’ he was quoted as saying.
However, several social media users expressed their pleasure with the new look.