: The temple dedicated to Sri Athmanathaswamy in Avudaiyarkovil, about 50 km from here, is not only an engineering marvel, but also a treasure house of murals of ancient period.

The temple is under the administrative jurisdiction of Sri Tiruvavaduthurai Adheenam and the temple rituals are being performed under the guidance of Sri Sivaprakasa Desika Paramacharyar Swamigal of the ahdeenam.

Although the rituals are being performed in tact, the murals of the ancient period are in a bad condition. Deposit of soot, smoke and humidity during the monsoon had caused extensive damage to a number of murals.

“Every part of the temple is rich in murals. For instance, the murals at the first praharam east; Sri Sivananda Manickavasagar shrine; the second praharam; Kanagasabai area; 1,000-pillar mandapam; and also the ceiling at several places testify to the talent and efficiency of the artistes of the hoary past,” says Balasubramania Nambiar, chief priest of the temple.

Every mural depicts a specific legend from Tiruvilaiyadalpuranam, Periyapuranam and also the ‘murthy sthlam and theertham' of 1,008 Siva shrines across the country, he says.

With the temple associated with the life of Sri Manickavasagar, the significance of the murals pertains to his life. The ancient rulers had not only decorated the walls and ceilings of the temple with these murals, but also had documented them.

This is evident from the fact that the murals have been numbered. Moreover, a series of murals have been chosen to denote a specific legend. For instance, with a view to explaining the efforts taken by Sri Manickavasagar to gift a dumb girl with the faculty of speech, the artistes had narrated the incident with a row of murals.

The murals also testify to the ancient civilisation: For instance, a giant sari on the ceiling of the temple shows the type and nature of the design which was in vogue centuries ago. “Even now, a large number of textile designers and entrepreneurs keep visiting the temple to have a glimpse of the design of the costumes which were in vogue in the distant past,” says Sri. Balasubramania Nambiar.

Sri Balasubramania Nambiar said that the murals were clear and distinct. Sri Parvathi Kalyanam; the gods and goddesses in major temples have been displayed.

He says that immediate action should be taken to protect the available murals and also for the restoration of the murals to the extent possible. Many murals had lost their lustre due to soot and dust.