A foreign tourist triggered a ruckus on Tuesday at Hampi after carrying and consuming liquor inside Virupaksha Temple premises – a prohibited area, according to a report in the Bangalore Mirror. A picture showing him with a liquor bottle inside the temple went viral, triggering protests; and the local activists, who staged the protest on Wednesday, have demanded more security at the premises and action against the tourist who is yet to be traced.
The unidentified tourist – who is said to be from Holland – had entered the premises the second time by concealing the liquor despite being sent out with a warning after the first.
It all started when the tourist was spotted with a liquor bottle on the temple premises on Tuesday evening. Virupaksha Temple premises being a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site and also falling in the core zone of Hampi, the capital city of erstwhile Vijayanagar Empire, carrying or consuming liquor in its vicinity is prohibited.
Besides the regulations in place, and the areas monitored by the UNESCO, the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) and the state government’s HWHAMA (Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority), the place houses the deity Virupaksha (Lord Shiva) and is considered one of the sacred Hindu religious places in Hampi. Pilgrims visit this temple in lakhs every year while foreign tourists come in thousands.
At times, tourists, including research scholars and authors from abroad, visit Hampi with great regard to the architectural creativity. However, this foreign tourist created a ruckus, drawing flak from locals.
The visitor, for whom the police have launched a manhunt, had been spotted drinking liquor on the temple premises and immediately stopped by one of the staff when he had tried to gain entry into the temple’s sanctum sanctorum, a source told Mirror. He was sent back by the temple staff with an advisory and a warning that liquor was prohibited as the area was a religious place. “Although he went outside with his partner, a lady, he came back after five minutes. Unfortunately this time, too, he had brought liquor hiding it inside his clothes. This disturbed the staff and locals who again sent him back with a warning,” Rachaiah SS, a Save Hampi activist told Bangalore Mirror.
Though attempts were made to get their details when they were stopped the first time – about the hotel they stayed in, their names and other details – the drunk tourist claimed to be knowing nothing and moved away.
Liquor is prohibited in up to at least 2-3 kilometres radius of the temple, but how the tourist managed to come in with a bottle in a hand is an issue which has put the state of security there under the scanner, a source said.
“The couple may have come from Virupapura Gadde where hotels and lodges sell liquor and is one of the most sought-after areas by foreign tourists. However getting them inside the temple is certainly a lapse on the part of the security staff on duty as they should not have allowed it. The place doesn’t even have minimum security like metal detectors. If it is liquor today, tomorrow somebody may sneak inside with something really dangerous. It needs to be checked,” another source told Bangalore Mirror.
A volunteers group, which is into Hampi conservation initiatives, also staged a protest on Wednesday at Hampi over the incident. They also filed a complaint with the local authorities and the police, seeking action and adequate security at sensitive locations in Hampi, including the sacred temples and monuments.
That the tourist is from Holland is yet to be confirmed from documents with him, but he has remained untraceable on Wednesday.
“We will inquire about his whereabouts and act once he is traced. Carrying liquor inside a prohibited area and a religious area, and hurting local sentiments is not right. Authorities are looking for him and action will be initiated once he is found,” a source in the police at Hampi told Bangalore Mirror.
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