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Updated: September 27, 2012 13:06 IST

Meenakshi temple begins replacing damaged pillars

R. Sairam
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The first new pillar being installed at the south corridor of golden lotus tank in Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai on Wednesday. Photo: S. James
The Hindu The first new pillar being installed at the south corridor of golden lotus tank in Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai on Wednesday. Photo: S. James

Rs. 3.50-cr. project being implemented with Central aid

The Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple here on Wednesday began replacing the over 400-years-old pillars that developed cracks in the South and East Corridors surrounding its Golden Lotus Tank under a Rs. 3.50 crore initiative that includes assistance from the Central Government.

In the initial phase, the temple authorities began installing ten pillars on the south corridor. Another set of ten pillars in the corridor would also be replaced within the next six months. The entire project involves replacing 72 pillars in the two corridors and is expected to take around a couple of years.

Special care has been taken in choosing the stones for this project. They come from a quarry at Koyra near Bangalore. A speciality of the stones is that they were not blasted using explosives.

Meenakshi temple ‘Thakkar’ Karumuttu T. Kannan informed that the Central Government had granted Rs. 47 lakh under the 13 Finance Commission for the first phase and another Rs. 45 lakh was expected for the next phase. The rest of the project cost would be borne by the temple.

“Much research had gone into making these new pillars and ensuring that they were similar to the olden ones. The highlight of this project is that there are still sculptors available who could make statues and pillars exactly as in the ancient times.”

These sculptors, he said, had perfected the art of combining precision tools with hand-work finishing and managed to retain the style of the older pillars. While most of the pillars would have the figure of a ‘fish,’ the symbol of the Pandya Kingdom, one pillar alone would have the ‘Ashoka Chakra’ symbol to signify that it was made in modern times.

Once completed, Mr. Kannan said that artificial support structures that were present for over two decades would be completely removed. A team of 40 sculptors and workers headed by Kumaraguru Stapathi from Panruti, Cuddalore district, was working on the temple premises.

Many of the older pillars have already gone past their life period and are worn down. Several temporary pillars have been erected between them to serve as props.

This project was taken up upon the recommendations of an expert committee constituted by the Government in 2006 and expanded under the instructions of the High Court to include representatives from the Public Works Department Geologists, Stapathis, Indian Institute of Technology professors and Stapathis.

Speaking about the project to ensure permanent water storage at Golden Lotus Tank, he said that it was likely to be completed within another 15 days.

P. Jayaraman, Joint Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department and Executive Officer of the temple, said that the corridors were probably constructed around the year 1600.

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