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Updated: December 30, 2010 19:35 IST

On a heritage trail

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Vijay Kumar. Photo: K Ananthan
The Hindu
Vijay Kumar. Photo: K Ananthan

Art and sculpture lover Vijay Kumar spoke of the rich mural traditions in the temples of South India

Art and heritage lovers in the city gathered recently at Sanmarga Sangam in Devangapet, to reconnect with the heritage of Indian architecture. The Vanavarayar Foundation presented a lecture on ‘Mural Traditions of India' by Vijay Kumar, the founder of The room resonated with people quoting from Tamil literature and discussing art and sculpture even before the event started.

Simple truths

“Rekham prashansantyacharya,” (A beautiful artist is judged by simplicity) said Vijay Kumar's first slide and those two words set the tone for the evening. The journey began with a walk through the Ajanta caves, with their exquisite murals. He explained the intricacies of the motifs of birds, bees, lotuses, etc. A beautiful Apsara appeared in a tattered mural, and Vijay discussed the level of accuracy of the painting.

Speaking of the methods of painting, Vijay pointed out how a single stroke and single line (e.g the eyebrow) could convey so many emotions.

Architectural marvels

One of the murals on the walls of the Ajanta caves tell the story of Mahakapi Jataka, of the great monkey king and the monkey bridge (we are all familiar with it, thanks to Amar Chitra Katha). After visiting the Ellora caves we then travelled South, to an eighth century architectural marvel – the Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple. We admired the brilliant symmetry of Panamalai Talagireeshwarar and Vijay asked us not to miss the shy glance of Parvathi.

The next halt was at Sittanavasal, a rock-cut temple, near Trichy. The fresco-secco painting on the ceiling was projected and the pond scene was the point of focus. There was cattle, an angry bird, an elephant and flowers. We passed by the more contemporary paintings at Malaiyadapatti and Narthamalai, near Pudukkottai. Vijay compared the paintings and turned the spotlight on the differences between the Chola and the Pallava art. One could tell by studying the way the faces and eyes of the subjects were painted.

Vijay Kumar's eyes lit up when he spoke about Rajarajeshwaram (The Big Temple at Thanjavur). He quoted a line from Kalki's epic novel ‘Ponniyin Selvan' and said, “We draw our energy from this temple.” Vijay showed slides of the Periya kovil, from ‘Chozha kaala oviyangal'. They provided a glimpse of the nine panels in the temple.

Beginning with the Dakshinamurthy panel, we strolled past the Sundarar panel, Chidambaram Natarajar, the masterful Tripurantaka, Ravana Anugraha Murthy and Kalyanasundarar.

With a passion to reconstruct and decipher India's priceless murals, Vijay Kumar highlighted the beauty of art and sculptures and raised awareness among the crowd.

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