In 1904, the British Indian Government passed the Ancient Monuments Protection Act and, in doing so, radically enlarged the bureaucratic claim of the state over structures defined, for the purposes of the Act, as monuments. The project of conserving the Hindu temple was beset by discomforts. The claims of the colonial state and local Hindu devotees were separated by different precepts of religiosity and alternate orders of aesthetics, time and history. However, it is clear that there were also confluences: legislative authority could masquerade as antiquarian custody and, in practice, the secular veneration of material antiquity blurred with Hindu divinity. This article combines an exploration of the principles of archaeological conservation, as they were formed in the European bourgeois imagination, and then traces their transfer, though Imperial administration, to case studies of specific temples. Of particular interest is the deployment of the Act by local administrations and the counter-challenges, appropriations and manipulations of the same legislation. How were the aesthetic codes of conservation, and the legislation which sought to order and enforce their introduction, compromised by religious claims and practises?
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=ASS The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Modern Asian Studies, 47 (1), pp 135-166 2013, © 2013 Cambridge University Press.