Damage to the frescos took place when the cave was left abandoned

The Archaeological Survey of India has now deputed a team to analyse and reassess the damage to the Sittannavasal cave paintings in the Pudukottai district.

The team will include an archaeological chemist, and other experts, who will look for environmental and other damages to the paintings, regional director of the ASI, D. Dayalan, told The-Hindu .

The Sittannavasal paintings are early Pandya paintings that were part of a Jain settlement.

They have been dated to the 7{+t}{+h}century AD. The paintings themselves are frescos located inside a manmade cave, which was taken under the ASI control over thirty years ago.

The paintings had been damaged when the caves were left abandoned. The main damage was soot deposit. Following an earlier appeal from the public, some amount of restoration work had been undertaken, but there was a possibility for further damage. Decision on their course of action would be taken after the reports were submitted.

They had already analysed the kinds of pigments and materials that had been used in the paintings. Since all of them were inorganic paints, like Haematite, that were painted on to a lime coat, the colours would not dull or fade easily, he said.

The Sittannavasal cave in which the paintings were found was intended to be a Jain religious site. The paintings contained depictions of religious stories, royal couples, floral designs and animals associated with Jainism. The paintings are found on the ceilings and walls of the cave, he said.

The entire area was a large Jain settlement with several naturally-occurring caves. Several instances of the Tamil Brahmi caves were found inside these natural caves, he said.

The move to reassess the damage came after an appeal from the editor of the archaeological journal Manarkeni D. Ravikumar during the 50{+t}{+h}year celebrations of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department held here recently.

  • The cave in which the paintings were found was intended to be a Jain religious site

  • The move to reassess came after an appeal from the editor of an archaeological journal