Constitute heritage clubs to create awareness among students, parents

Modern conservation efforts are doing more damage to heritage structures because of spurious conservation technology, T. Satyamurthy, Archaeologist and Founder, REACH Foundation, has said.

Infusion of funds into conservation work was perhaps aiding this. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and those concerned with conservation should be aware of this but they are not. He was speaking at ‘Symposium for Heritage Wardens’, a programme the Foundation organised in the city on Sunday.

With the infusion of funds, people were going for major repairs that were unwanted and adopting methodologies that were needless. The very conservation work could be done for a fraction of the amount being spent.

Referring to a case in Thandarai village, near Chengalpattu in Kancheepuram district, Mr. Satyamurthy said that the person tasked with protecting a Vishnu temple there had completely demolished the heritage structure and proposed to construct a new one for around Rs. 80 lakh. Luckily, the people there along with the contractor had not done much damage to the old, dilapidated Shiva temple there. The members of the Foundation were able to restore the temple to its glory for a fraction of the money that was proposed for the Vishnu temple.

He lamented that as part of the conservation efforts, people, temple trustees or government officials or others were resorting to methods like painting the walls, erecting concrete structure or replacing old stones when such things were not necessary.

“The aim of conservation should be to make the heritage structure or temple appear old but fresh.” This was the philosophy that underlined the conservation work in Thanjavur Periyakoil and a few other very old temples.

“And the work should be in such a way that future generations stand to benefit.”

Mr. Satyamurthy also took on the argument that the ‘Shastras’ (traditional Indian codes) did not allow people to innovate and that it curtailed artistic freedom. Such an argument was false because the code for sculpting applied only to the central deity. The sculptor was free to run riot with his imagination, which one could see in the hundreds of thousands of statues/figurines on the several layers of temple towers.

Ravi Sam, Chairman, AASAI, said that the committee the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had promised to constitute to conserve should not just be made of bureaucrats but also archaeologists like Mr. Satyamurthy.

He appealed to academics/school managements to constitute heritage clubs so as to create awareness among students and also parents. Noted conservationists, heritage architects and others spoke at the symposium.

Later in the day, Mr. Satyamurthy visited a dilapidated temple in Devarajapalayam to explore the possibilities of renovating the outer corridor.

He said that the 800-year-old temple’s outer corridor was completely damaged.

There was every possibility that all the columns and beams, which lay scattered in the vicinity, were intact and the same could be used in the reconstruction.

It could take up to a year as all the columns and beams have to be sorted out, measured first before the reconstruction could begin.

He said that he went there at the behest of the trustees’ of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments temple.