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CONNOISSEUR’S DELIGHT A painting on the wall of the house in Kuilapalayam
CONNOISSEUR’S DELIGHT A painting on the wall of the house in Kuilapalayam

An ancient wall painting throws light on a forgotten art form

A dilapidated house in Kuilapalayam village has revealed an ancient secret. For over centuries, the house has held within its crumbling walls a unique traditional painting.

Kuilapalayam, near Auroville, is just two km off the East Coast Road. It was here that a local artist discovered the traditional painting on the front wall of a house. But the art work, which narrates four to five stories, is partially damaged because it has not been preserved. For Kuilapalayam resident and freelance artist E. Sivakumar, happiness knew no bounds when he chanced upon this work. He informed G. Tirounavacarassou, another freelance artist and former student of Bharathiar Palkalai Koodam (BPK) about the treasure.

“Usually, traditional paintings either depict Vaishnavite or Saivite stories. But what is unique about this particular work is that it depicts both. There is a story about Lord Krishna and also about Kannappa Nayanar, a hunter and devotee of Lord Shiva. The intricate background features tree, peacock, parrot and crows,” says R. Rajarajan, lecturer at BPK, who analysed the painting along with the two artists. Interestingly, the tradition of such wall paintings dates back 2,000 years. “In the Sangam period, traders who had links with Europe adopted the architectural forms of those countries and recreated them here. After the Pandya rule, the Naickers from Andhra Pradesh took this practice further. However, after the 16th century, the traditional painters did not have such opportunities, and so, they went from village to village and painted in homes,” he adds.

Done in fresco style, the painting is a symbol of ancient artistry. “Fresco painting involves high-quality processes. It lasts a minimum of 1,000 years due to the technique involved. Natural colours have been used in this work,” observes Rajarajan. Sivakumar says even his house in the village had such a painting, but was brought down during renovation.

“Apart from the two stories, the painting, which spreads across the top portion of the wall, has a portrait of a goddess, 16th Century soldier and a man fighting a tiger,” he points out. A similar work was found in a house in Chinna Veerampattinam in January. “This is indeed a rare piece of finding and the second such one in Puducherry. But, it has been badly damaged over the years. The Government should step in to restore and preserve it,” say the artists.

SERENA M. JOSEPHINE

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