Archaeology garden to come up, painting taken up; project to be completed by end of the month

Seventy-year-old D. Padmavathi, a Jain devotee, keeps a permanent, watchful eye on the 5th century Pallava-era twin Jain temples in Tirupparuthikundram, Kancheepuram district, on the outskirts of Chennai.

The Chandraprabha temple is at one end of a common compound, and to its south is the Jeenaswamy Trilokyanathar temple. No one, not even archaeologists can enter or exit these temples without Padmavathi seeing them.

In January 1986, Padmavathi was given the charge of guarding the temples, now protected monuments, from intruders.

She has seen many earlier attempts to protect these historical edifices, but the ongoing restoration work, taken up after more than a decade, has so far offered the most hope, she says.

Padmavathi, who stays in a dilapidated house just opposite the temples, wants them to be given a fresh look that will invite more tourists and heritage-lovers to visit these monuments. “To the best of my knowledge, my family has been guarding these temples for more than seven generations,” she said.

Engineers of the Public Works Department, under the guidance of a team of archaeologists from the State archaeology department, are currently undertaking a massive restoration and conservation project for these temples. The work, which began last December, is being funded under the 13th Finance Commission Grant of the Union ministry of culture for the year 2012-13.

The total cost of the project is Rs. 28.6 lakh, officials said. The work includes sealing gaps in the structures to prevent water seepage, removal of weeds, adding lighting facilities, fencing in the temples by extending the existing brick dwarf wall as well as painting of iron structures.

Landscaping, which will include the setting up of an archaeological garden, will be the highlight of the restoration work. The work is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Other work includes dismantling of weathered material, plastering, water tightening the terrace to prevent seepage, restoring the top layer with pressed tiles, removing impurities, loose plaster and fungus.

“The dilapidated 21-metre compound wall has been restored with the same stones as used in the original structure. Painting work and landscaping work are still to be done,” said D. Rajakumar, a PWD engineer.

Built by the Pallava king, Rajasimha, during his reign between 690-728 CE, the Chandraprabha temple is a small structure with a base of granite. The rest of the structure, including the sanctum, is built of sandstone.

The Jeenaswamy temple was built by Pallava king, Simavan, during his reign in 556 CE. The paintings on the roof of the temple however, were done during the 17th century.

The temples also have inscriptions from the time of Pallava king, Narasimhavarman II and Chola kings Rajendra Chola I, Kulothunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola, as well as Kanarese inscriptions of Krishnadevaraya.

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