Saturday 30 December 2023

Urgent Conservation of The Sun Temple Konark- UNESCO World Heritage #SaveKonark

The Sun Temple located at Konark, Odisha, is an architectural wonder.

It is the sole UNESCO World Heritage site located in Odisha, India.

"Konark Stone Carving" has earned the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. 

 More information on Konark Stone Carving GI is in this blog post-

Konark Stone Carving has been in the news many times before and also in 2023. 

During G20 Summit 2023, PM Modi ji received world leaders with the wall backdrop having the photograph of the Konark Wheel.

Then, there was this replica that touched hearts in New York City this year- 

Sandart installation replica of the Sun Temple had earned the first prize for Padma Shri Sudarsan Pattnaik in 2019.

Apart from the above positive stories, there have been other sad cases.

Last week, I was appalled to read about a security guard urinating on the temple's wall. 

More in this post on Reddit-

It happened in daylight. 

A social media user saw it, captured it, and shared. 

But, was this a solitary incident? What is happening when others are not watching?

What will happen when those in charge of conservation do such things?

They are being paid to do their duty and they are the ones responsible for violation!

Do we need to further invest in concerned and trained watchdogs to watch watchmen?

The fact is that our incredible heritage site has been constantly in the news for "conservation" issues. 

Many social media users have repeatedly shared that the original exquisitely carved sculptures have been and are being removed and replaced by plain stones.

Plus, some such treasures removed for conservation issues had been and have been lying unattended with no proper system of carefully storing or preserving them in a shelter with the deserving respect.

Earlier, during the rainy season, it was distressing to find severe water-logging in the premises. Tourists had to wade through the water. A proper drainage system must be in place to protect and preserve from damage.

Everyone is aware that the Sun Temple Konark is in grave danger.

But, what is being done to solve the issues?

Is our World Heritage site not important enough to be taken care of?

There are articles in the newspapers periodically.

But, what happens later? 

Are the suggestions implemented? Are the concerns addressed?

Recently, I got to discuss many points about Konark Sun Temple with Prof Siba Prasad Adhikary.

Prof S.P. Adhikary, D.Sc., FNAAS, has had a distinguished career. He was-

  • Former  Vice-Chancellor, F. M. University, Balasore, Odisha
  • Former Professor & Head, Dept. Biotechnology, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, West Bengal
  • Former Professor, Dept. Botany & Dept. Biotechnology, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

When I got a chance to be a panellist with him about Jaukandhei in 2020, I e-met Prof Adhikary for the first time thanks to Shilpi Kesudas, who had invited us. 
Later, I learned that Prof Adhikary has had great experience with an impressive association with conservation projects.

His stellar research experience and journey:

Research work with project grants at Utkal University & Visva-Bharati (1994 - 2015):

After returning from Japan, Prof Adhikary wrote two project proposals and submitted them to-

 A) the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India-

(i) “Microbial biodeterioration of stone monuments of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark and their control strategies”, and

B) the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India-

(ii) “Survey, isolation and screening of environmentally compatible and stress tolerant cyanobacteria from rice fields of Odisha for use as biofertilizer for rice”. 

Both these major R&D projects were sanctioned in the year 1994. 

As he had already initiated preliminary work on these aspects through the Ph.D. and M.Phil. students since 1990, the four JRFs in these projects, Ms. Pratima Tripathy and Ms. Amarpalli Roy in the MOEF project, and Mr. Jayanta Kumar Sahu and Mr. Hrusikesh Nayak in the DBT project started working without any gap. 

Before this, Prof Adhikary had collected biofilm samples from stone monuments and caves from Odisha, Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, Nepal, and terracotta temples of Varanasi, Dibrugarh and Bishnupur through personal several trips. 

Then, those biofilms along with the fresh ones obtained from the temples of Puri, Konark, Bhubaneswar and Paikamal were cultured to study the diversity in relation to colonization to microclimatic conditions of the respective exterior surfaces, studying their metabolic activity under desiccation regime and upon wetting, presence of UV sunscreen pigments and their control methods using algicides. The results were published in Archives fur Hydrobiologie, Algological studies in 1996 and 1997. 

This work was continued even after Ph.D. work of his students Pratima and Amarpalli, and was taken up by Ms. Bagmi Pattnaik through Prof Adhikary's UGC research award project extending the research leading to Ph.D. to understand the stress adaption mechanism of Cyanobacteria in various types of biofilms on diverse type of stone monuments .  

In the year 2002, Prof Adhikary went to Institute of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Justus Liebig University,  Giessen, Germay and worked on the sodB and sodF genes of the stress tolerant Tolypothrix byssoidea from Sun temple, Konark with collaboration of Prof. Gabriele Klug, and learnt the techniques of Molecular biology for application in research in India. 

Again, he visited the same laboratory at Giessen in 2006, continued the r-DNA technology work on deciccation tolerance genes and published in Indian J. Biotechnology, 2007.

In 1997, Prof Adhikary also worked at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, for 3 months under the guidance of Dr S.K. Apte with a DST visiting associateship and learnt the Proteomics techniques.

In 2005, Prof Adhikary was awarded an Indo-Italian collaborative project to study jointly with Prof. Patrizia Albertano, University of Rome -Tor Vergata; Prof. Roberto DePhilippis of Dept of Agriculture Biotechnology, University of Florence and Prof. Clara Urzi of University of Messina, Italy on ‘Microbial colonisation on the monuments of Italy and India” which continued with mutual bilateral visits to the host countries until 2008. The project was extended further for the 2nd term between 2009 – 2013, executed at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan and Dr. Laura Bruno of University of Rome was the PI from Italian side. 

Ms Laxmi Kumari Samad joined as M.Phil. student in 2005 to whom Prof Adhikary asked to survey the algae on building facades. After M.Phil. she joined as JRF under a RGN Fellowship and worked on the “Diversity of algae and cyanobacteria and their mechanism of colonisation on building facades of Bhubaneswar during different seasons”, and obtained Ph.D. in 2009. 

After Prof Adhikary left Utkal University in July 2009 for Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, he received an R& D project from DST-SERB, Govt. of India, in a cluster mode with five other scientists from different Universities to study the Genomics of stress tolerant Cyanobacteria.

Prof Adhikary was assigned to study on the Genomics of desiccation tolerance of anhydrobiotes. 

Nitin Keshari and Dhanesh Kumar with M.Sc. Biotechnology background joined the project as JRF; Dhanesh focussed on Cyanobacteria on Biological soil crusts (BSCs) of red, iron rich soils of Birbhum, West Bengal and Nitin on Diversity, molecular phylogeny, metabolic activity under desiccation stress by Cyanobacteria from stone and mortar sculptures of Santiniketan. 

The work carried out on biodeterioration of stone monuments by Prof Adhikary's group since 1994 is hailed as the pioneering research in this field in India.  

Here is a list of the resulting research publications:

Publications in journals on Biofilm on stone monuments and their control:


Tripathy, P., Roy, A. and Adhikary, S.P. Survey of epilithic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) from temples of India and Nepal. Arch. Hydrobiol. Suppl. Algological studies, 87: 43-57, 1997.


Roy, A., Tripathy, P. and Adhikary, S.P. Epilithic blue-green algae/cyanobacteria from temples of India and Nepal. II. Presence of UV sunscreen pigments., Arch. Hydrobiol. Suppl. Algological studies, 86: 147-161, 1997.


Adhikary, S.P. and Sahu, J.K. UV-protecting pigment of the terrestrial cyanobacterium Tolypothrix byssoidea J. Plant Physiol. 153:770-773, 1998.


Tripathy, P., Roy, A., Anand, N. and Adhikary, S.P. Blue green algal flora on the rock surface of temples and monuments of India. Feddes Repertorium,110:133-144, 1999.

Adhikary, S.P. Epilithic cyanobacteria on the exposed rocks and walls of temples and monuments of India. Ind. J. Microbiol. 40:67-81,2000.


Adhikary, S.P. Chlorophyll stability of epilithic cyanobacteria from temples of India. Arch. Hydrobiol. Suppl. Algological studies,98: 119-131,2000.


Adhikary, S.P. Epilithic cyanobacteria on the exposed rocks and walls of temples and monuments of India. Ind. J. Microbiol. 40:67-81, 2000.


Pattanaik, B. and Adhikary, S.P. Blue green algal flora on archaeological monuments of India. Bull. Bot. Survey of India. 44: 61-74, 2002.


Pattanaik, B. and Adhikary, S.P. Blue green algal flora at some archaeological sites and monuments of India. Feddes Repertorium, 113: 289-300, 2002.


Adhikary, S.P. Survival in darkness and heterotrophic growth of epilithic cyanobacteria from temples of India. Arch. Hydrobiol. Suppl. Algol. Studs.105:141-155, 2002.


 Adhikary, S.P. Control of epilithic cyanobacterial mats of the temples of India using algicides. Arch Hydrobiol. Suppl.  Algol. Studs. 105:157-171,2002.


Adhikary, S.P. Heat Shock proteins in the epilithic cyanobacterium Tolypothrix byssoidea. Biol. Plantarum, 47: 125-128, 2003.


Pattanaik, B. and Adhikary, S.P. Effects of UV-B irradiation on survival, spectral characteristics and nitrogenase activity of cyanobacteria from different habitats. Archives Hydrobiol. Suppl. Algological Studies, 113, 159-173, 2004.


Pattanaik, B., Sahu, J.K. and Adhikary, S.P. Changes in the protein profile of cyanobacteria from terrestrial habitats in response to heat and UV-B radiation stress. Archives Hydrobiol. Suppl. Algological Studies, 113,175-182, 2004.


Adhikary, S.P. and Klug, G.: Detection of a gene for iron containing superoxide dismutase in the terrestrial cyanobacterium Tolypothrix byssoidea. Indian J Biotech. 6:118-120, 2007.


Samad, L.K. and Adhikary, S.P. Diversity of micro-algae and cyanobacteria on building facades and monuments of India. Algae, (Korean Journal of Phycology), 23: 91-114, 2008.


Adhikary, S.P. Bioerosion of archaeologically important temples and monuments of India and their preservation strategies. Indian Hydrobiol. 11: 1-8, 2008.


Samad, L.K., Rath, J. and Adhikary, S.P. Growth response and protein profile of two different Scytonema species from the cave walls and soil crusts in light and dark. Arch. Hydrobiol. Suppl. Algological studies 127: 49-60, 2008.


Samad, L.K. and Adhikary, S.P. Cyanobacteria and microalgae on building facades and stone surface of monuments - an ecophysiological prospective. In: Algal Biology and Biotechnology. Eds. Khattar, JIS, Singh, D.P. and Kaur, G., IK International Publishers, New Delhi. p 41-56, 2009.


Rossi, F., Micheletti, E., Bruno, L., Adhikary, S.P., Albertano, P. and DePhilippis, R. Characteristics and role of exocellular polysaccharides produced by five cyanbobacteria isolated from phototrophic biofilms growing on stone monuments.   Biofouling, 28: 215-224, 2012.


Keshari, N. and Adhikary, S.P. Characterization of cyanobacteria isolated from biofilmson stone monuments at Santiniketan, India. Biofouling 29: 525-536, 2013.


Keshri, N. and Adhikary, S.P. Diversity of cyanobacteria on stone monuments and building facades of India and their phylogenetic analysis. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 90:45-51, 2014.


Keshri, N.  and Adhikary, S.P. (2014) Ecology of cyanobacteria on stone monuments, biodeterioration and the conservation of cultural heritage. In. Cyanobacteria: an economic prospective. Eds. Sharma, N.K., Rai, A.K. and Stal, L.J., Willey Blackwell, P. 73-90.


Bruno, L., Ficorella, I, Valentini, F., Quici, L., Keshri, N. and Adhikary, S.P.  (2014) Characterization of phototrophic biofilms deteriorating Indian stone monuments, their response to heat stress and development of a non-invasive remediation strategy. In. Rogerio-Candelera Ed., Science, Technology and Cultural Heritage, Taylor & Francis Group, London, pp.205-210.


Adhikary, S.P., Keshari, N., Urzi, C. and DePhilippis, R. Cyanobacteria in biofilms on stone temples of Bhubaneswar, Eastern India. Algological Studies, Stuttgart, 147: 67-93, 2015.


Keshari, N., Das, S.K. and Adhikary, S.P. Schmidleinema santiniketanense sp. Non. (Cyanobacteria/Cyanoprokaryota) from a building façade in Santiniketan, India. Phytotaxa, 283:181-187, 2016.


Keshri, N., Das, S.K. and Adhikary, S.P. Stigonema tagorum sp. Nov. (Stigonemataceae, Cyanoprokaryota) from a stone monument of Santiniketan, West Bengal, India). Nelumbo (Bulletin of Botanical Survey of India) : 58: 152-156, 2016.


Keshri, N. Das, S.K. and Adhikary, S.P. Microbial deterioration of heritage monuments of Santiniketan, West Bengal, India. Current Science,116:709-710,2019.


Kumar, D., Keshri, N., Suku, P. and Adhikary, S.P. Response of the sub-aerial cyanobacterium Scytonema millei to UV-C irradiation. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 57: 362-367,2019.


Keshari, N., Das, S.K. and Adhikary, S.P. Colonization and survival of a stress tolerant cyanobacterium on a heritage monument of Santiniketan, India. International Biodeterioration and Diodegardation, 164: 1-12, 2021.


Saha, S.; Sen, A.; Mandal, S.; Adhikary,S.P. and Rath, J. Mycosporine-alanine, an oxo-mycosporine, protect Hassallia byssoidea from higher UV and solar irradiation on the stone monument of Konark. J. Photochem. Photobiol. B: Biology, 224, 1-8, 2021.


Ph.D. students who worked on Biodeterioration of stone monuments:

Dr. Pratima Tripathy, JRF & SRF-MOEF project (1994-1998)

Dr. Amarpalli Roy, JRF & SRF-MOEF project (1994-1998)

Dr. Bagmi Pattnaik, JRF, DBT Societal Project (2000-2004), PDF at BHU (2005-2007);

Presently: Settled in Sweden after PDF at Germany and USA.

Dr. Laxmi Kumari Samad, JRF & SRF (RGN fellowship), 2006-2009;

Presently: Aassistant Professor, College of Basic Science, OUAT, Bhubaneswar.

Dr. Nitin Keshari, JRF & SRF, DST Cluster project, Govt. of India (2010-2015) at Visva-Bharati; PDF in China from 2017 to 2021 after 2 years PDF at ICGEB, New Delhi.


National and international collaborators:

Collaborators through: DAAD Germany and Indo-Italian bilateral project of DST, GOI.

Prof. Gabriele Klug,Institute Mikrobiologie,Justus Liebig Universitat, Giessen, Germany

Dr. S.K. Apte, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai through DST Associateship

Prof. Patrizia Albertano, Biology Division, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy

Prof. Roberto DePhilippis, Dept. Agric. Microbiology, University of Florence, Italy

Prof. Clara Urzi, Dept. Microbiology, University of Messina, Sicily, Italy

Prof. Laura Bruno, Biology Division, University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy

Prof. Lubomir Kovacik, Dept. Botany, Commenius University, Bratislava, Slovak Republic

From 1991 onwards, many of his monument-conservation articles have been published in newspaper dailies like- Sambad, The Indian Express, Pioneer, and the Samaja.

e.g. Prof Adhikary's article about the danger posed to Konark Sun Temple - published in the Sambad newspaper issue dated May 4, 2022 is shared below-

Prof Adhikary had correspondence with Late Sri G Mitra on their work on Khondalite stone deterioration, and with ASI authorities while working on the deterioration of stones and frescoes at Ajanta. He still has the letters received from them. 
He had given lectures at INTACH Bhubaneswar, and personnel from INTACH visited his lab at Utkal University several times during 1997-2002 for training.

It is quite surprising that despite all the above, authorities of Odisha are unaware of an expert of Prof Adhikary's stature and calibre!
Had they known him and cared to involve an expert, wouldn't they have contacted him?
Should not his work in Odisha and his sole expertise in this field in India be sought after and employed for our state and nation's benefits? 
This leads one to wonder about the comprehensive status of research and understanding of the problem of Konark and other stone temples and monuments of our state. 

For many cases including GIs of Odisha, it is strange to find that even local experts are not consulted!
Prof Adhikary echoes many of our views when he shares- 
"Possibly Odias think expertise is not available in our Universities, and we need to borrow technology from IIT, Chennai, Roorkee, other IITs and even from abroad without knowing their contribution in the field and just because of a pre-conceived idea that expertise exists only there."
Sambad newspaper issue dated 27th August 2022 carried the article of Sri Amiya Bhusan Tripathy, Advisor INTACH Odisha, about Konark Temple. 
Prof Adhikary got in touch with Sri Tripathy via email and shared regarding the research on the conservation of stone monuments in India, the international collaboration with Italy and his paper publications such as this-

Central Govt, State Govt, and bodies like INTACH must take note-
Those who have the authority and responsibility must ensure inviting and involving and taking the support and guidance of experts like Prof Adhikary.

Those interested to take this forward, kindly connect with-  
Prof Siba Prasad Adhikary: Email: 

The intention of this post is to again remind all to work for the conservation of the Sun Temple Konark with renewed vigour and on an urgent basis by including experts.
Konark Sun Temple is our responsibility.

We request timely conservation with the help of empowered and empathetic people with expertise, experience, and enterprise.

What do you feel? Please share your views in the comments below.

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