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Depicting the history of Travancore in murals

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ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS: Mural artists engaged in sketching at Museum auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Photo: S. Gopakumar
ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS: Mural artists engaged in sketching at Museum auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. Photo: S. Gopakumar

Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Department of Museum and Zoo in the city has embarked on an ambitious project - recreating the history of Travancore through visually appealing mural paintings.

Nearly 14 select artists from across the State will be a part of this novel mission, which also aims to popularise the art form that has hitherto been confined to the walls of temples and palaces in the State.

The paintings will be housed inside the Sri Chithra Enclave, a building located near the Museum auditorium. However, contrary to the traditional way of painting, the vignettes of Travancore history will be created on Bison boards, artificial panels made of cement and wood that evoke the feel and look of a natural wall.

The decision was taken after the walls of the over 150-year-old enclave were found "too old" to support the paintings. A total of 14 memorable events from the history of Travancore, beginning from 800 A.D. to the formation of the State, will find a place inside the enclave.

The topics allotted to the artists include rise of Venad, temple entry proclamation, Proclamation of Kundara, battle of Colachel, Anjengo Fort, Thrippadidanam, Arat procession and the last days of Sri Chitra Tirunal.

Titled `Mural painting camp 2006,' the project was inaugurated here on Monday by P.N. Unnikrishnan, director, Department of Museum and Zoo.

Mr. Unnikrishnan said the project would help to revive interest in mural painting among the public.

"Painting on walls was one of the earliest known art forms. Before the arrival of artificial surfaces, people used to paint on rocks and used natural dyes such as rock powder and the juice extracted from leaves for their creation," he said.

Myths, stories

However, Mr. Unnikrishnan expressed his apprehension about adopting an artistic style used for depicting myths and stories to portray `reality-based' incidents from history.

"Mural paintings focus mostly on expressions and the temperamental aspects of a character. But here, they (artists) are confronted with the task of portraying real-life incidents. This is an experiment," he added.

M.G. Sashibhooshan, historian, who was present on the occasion, said the respect and popularity of mural paintings and the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma had grown over the years.

The traditional mural painting of the State is done only in five colours, Panchavarana, such as yellow, red, green, black and white. White is the wall itself and all other pigments are prepared from stones and leaves.

The preparation of the wall is an elaborate process and on this specially prepared wall, the picture is drawn first in line and completed with the above-mentioned five colours.

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