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Saving temple art from onslaughts of time

Endangered temple art at Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai being documented by French Institute of Pondicherry.

Endangered temple art at Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai being documented by French Institute of Pondicherry.  

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French Institute of Pondicherry embarks on a massive documentation exercise in T.N.

In an effort to preserve the rich cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu, the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) has embarked on a massive exercise of documentation of endangered temple art, murals and paintings in the State for posterity.

A team of researchers from IFP have started the documentation programme in Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple; Kallalagar temple, Alagarkovil; Chenraya Perumal temple in Adiyamankottai; and Jain caves of Tirumalai in the first phase.

The IFP has already completed a major portion of digitisation of its photo archives which contain over 1,60,000 photographs of temples in South India and are an unique repository of information on temple art and iconography in South India.

The documentation of temple art is aimed at enriching the collection enabling historians and researchers to carry out their work.

Dr. N. Murugesan, researcher IFP told The Hindu that “Documentation of temple art and murals in these five vulnerable sites in Tamil Nadu should have been done at least 50 years back. Many of the sites had lost their glory and historical importance. With this documentation the IFP is now trying to give a new life to these murals and paintings that had been created using herbal colours. Tamil Nadu’s cultural heritage is being rejuvenated because of this activity. The main aim of this project is to conserve and preserve the murals for the future generation.”

The murals found in the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai depict Meenakshi Thirukalyanam, the celestial wedding ceremony of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Sundareshwarar. The murals are more than 600 years old and have to be preserved.

Similarly, the Alagarkovil has a number of panels from the Ramayana. The murals narrate series of episodes from the Ramayana where the artists have captured the flavour of the age using only herbal colours.

Murals depicting episodes from the Ramayana in Chithirachavadi have been exposed to nature’s vagaries and the paintings are not clear. Little work has been done to preserve them, he said.

Mr. Murugesan said the documentation process was a laborious task and the team photographed the panels in each of the temple with detailed measurements.

“We will take up nine more sites for documenting endangered murals in 8 temples and the Bodinaickanur palace in Theni district during the second phase of the programme,” he said.

The Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State Department of Archaeology have taken steps for preservation of these murals. A detailed database will be prepared with description of the murals. This will pave way for future generations to understand the rich cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu and also provide opportunities for research.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2018 11:29:36 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/saving-temple-art-from-onslaughts-of-time/article6604942.ece