Even as an excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Gottiprolu in Andhra Pradesh has indicated that the area may have been a huge settlement as early as 2,000 years ago, a statue that was excavated triggered a row after photos surfaced of the idol which showed a 'namam' (a religious mark) on its forehead.
ASI officials in their release had said that the buried sculpture was that of Vishnu, and was excavated from the western part of a village nearby. Around 2 meters tall, the statue displays a four-armed Vishnu standing over a pedestal carrying a chakra and conch in his upper right and left hands respectively, the ASI had said in its tweet.
Two photos of the statue were posted on Twitter – one with the religious mark on its forehead, and one without. Several people were quick to point out that the 'namam' looked freshly painted and asked if it was added by the ASI after excavation, which would amount to vandalism.
Clarifying the issue, Dr Srilakshmi, a Superintending Archaeologist with the ASI who has been heading the excavation team at Gottiprolu told TNM, "The statue was partly exposed and it was villagers who put the namam. We do not have anything to do with it. We tried to remove it, but some of the villagers wanted to put it again because of their sentiments."
You guys tampered with it?— Gautam aka Gomsy (@adingoyyala) November 1, 2019
Who applied red Tilak??... How can @ASIGoI tamper the excavated findings??— கார்த்தி | Karthi (@attur_karthi) November 1, 2019
How does a red tilak gets thrown on an Archeological finding? Weren't any such finding supposed to be protected and preserved without any disturbance. These people have no respect for scientific methodologies— Dilshad S (@I_AM_dil) November 1, 2019
Even the other pic posted by ASI doesn't have Red / White Namam on the sculpture forehead . How can ASI allow someone to damage the piece if it's unearthed to draw something like this. https://t.co/wnoOI7r5mV— | Cʜɪᴇғ SG (@tamizhsudhakar) November 1, 2019
This picture doesn't have Tilak but the other one does.— Moudgalya (@BMoudgalya) November 1, 2019
"It was partly visible above the ground when we found it and we took up excavation and exposed it completely," Dr Srilakshmi said.
Sources also told TNM that as the statue was found at the edge of Gottiprolu village, locals were also concerned that ASI may take over their land. Therefore, locals had even made a shelter for the statue and conducted small rituals and prayers to assert their ownership.