- A controversy is brewing over the takeover of the land and building of St George Orthodox Church at Cheppad near Kayamkulam for the development of NH 66.
- The survey as part of the land acquisition was completed by NHAI officials amid the
- protest by parishioners.
- NH 66 is a 1,608 km long busy National Highway that runs roughly north–south along the western coast of India, parallel to the Western Ghats. It connects Panvel (a city south of Mumbai) to Kanyakumari, passing through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
About the Church
- St. George Orthodox Church, Cheppad, Alapuzha in Kerala, is popularly known as Cheppad Valiya Pally and is a pilgrim center of Malankara Orthodox Church.
- The 800 year-old murals in the Church exhibit Christian traditional paintings.
- These paintings, a blend of Persian art and Kerala’s mural artwork, have drawn enthusiasts from far and wide.
- Besides, Philipose Mar Dionysius, Malankara Metropolitan during the 19th Century, was buried attached to its sanctuary.
Built in AD 950
- It is believed that the church was built in AD 950, but some experts put the year of construction at AD 1050.
- Though it was rebuilt in 1952, the apse at the eastern end of the church was left intact to preserve the murals.
Now to Get a National Tag
- Centuries-old St. George’s Orthodox Church at Cheppad is now set to be declared a Centrally protected monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
- A “Monument of National Importance” is designated by the ASI.
- According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, an “Ancient Monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years.”
Now to Get a National Tag
- Last month, as directed by the ASI Director General, a team of officials from the ASI Thrissur circle inspected the church and recommended its preservation.
- K.P. Mohandas, superintending archaeologist, wrote a letter to the NHAI urging it to propose a new alignment for the NH.
- “It has been noticed that the church is one of the rarest in Kerala, having traditional Kerala church architectural pattern with rare and beautiful mural paintings on the walls of the altar. Considering the historic, art and architectural importance of the church, this office intends to protect the church as a Centrally protected monument of national importance. It is, therefore, informed that the present alignment of the NH may please be changed to protect this ancient church and its valuable mural paintings,” reads the letter.
Even the CM Wrote to MoRTH
- Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a letter to Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, had said that “while the State government is committed to the widening of the NH, it is felt that a 1,000-year-old historical religious place is to be preserved.”
- R. Balashankar, co-convener, BJP national training programme, who made interventions to protect the church, said it was an invaluable historic treasure. “The destruction of the tomb or the ancient mural paintings could become a matter of grave religious nature.”