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A SHRINE turning into a work of ART

ONE OF the main shrines at the Jain Temple complex at Mattancherry is going through a major phase of renovation. Temple renovation work is generally complicated and challenging as so many different shades of faith-based maxims cannot be violated. The renovation work of this shrine was a necessity, informs Rajen Momaya who is one of the people closely involved in the construction work. The existing building was gradually becoming a dilapidated structure and repair works became increasingly expensive affairs. So it was believed that a complete restoration was the only answer. And this restoration aimed at transforming the shrine into a work of art inspired by the beauty and grandeur of some of the finest Jain Temples in India.

Manikant Visanji Khona, the secretary of the Jain Temple and the convener of the eight-member renovation committee, which came into being in 1998, says that so many things had to be considered. The committee began with a budget of Rs. 50 lakhs allotted for this work. Only a `Sompura' could undertake the temple work, of this sort. `Sompuras' are traditionally constructors of their temples and they were fortunate enough to enlist the services of Daksh N. Sompura of Ahmedabad who was very experienced in this work and has been associated with the construction and renovation of numerous shrines in India. Mr. Daksh Sompura undertook to oversee the project, which requires the incorporation of `dharmic' or religious principles in the minute things. The size of the courtyard, the distances, everything, had to be considered along these lines, says Mr. Khona. The best quality materials are being used for the temple, which is now being crafted in marble, tivri stone, and bansipad stone. Bansipad stone slabs have been used on the outside. The floor is marble with carvings along the steps, while the main hall has designs inlaid with different coloured marble. There are also niches in the walls, which display floral and geometrical carvings. The main entrance which has two large recently carved elephants has a small dome done in tivri stone, while the piece-de-resistance is the larger dome of the same stone which dominates the main hall and whose shades of pink complement the white marble. The dome is a marvel of temple construction as the pieces are structured to fit into each other without support through an intricate pattern based on the principle of balance.

The workers and stonecutters have been associated with similar constructions in several places like Ahmedabad, Baroach and Mumbai. Different sets of specialists work on the varied aspects of the temple and much of the carving has been done right here in Kochi. The Sompura submits the main designs and provides the specialist workers to execute his ideas but as one of the artisans working on the intricate `thorans' admits that some of the designs may be improvised.

The floral designs and the geometric patterns are repeated both inside and outside the temple. The main hall is to be decorated with statues of musicians and there are appropriate figures to be placed in various locations. There are to be figures sacred to the Jain faith such as those of Indra, Mahendra, Padmak and Surdhendhubi.

Sree Chandraprabhuji is the main deity at this shrine. Two more deities are to be added, those of Sree Adeshwar and Sree Gautam Swami. The idols of these deities were prepared in Jaipur and then sent to Kutch for `Anjan Salakh Vidhi' or the rites of purification. They will then be installed in this temple. The adjoining Gurumandir is also being renovated.

Mr. Khona hopes that the renovation work will be completed in another three or four months.


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