Friday Review

Breadth of vision

Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan.  

At 29, Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan has a lot to his credit. An Associate Professor in Architecture at a reputed college in Siruseri, he has visited the 106 Divya Desams, the 200 Padal Petra Sthalangal of Saivite importance, completed the Char Dham Yatra, travelled to Ayodhya, Dwaraka, Vaishnodevi and is raring to go to Kailash Manasarovar with a group of friends.

Recently he delivered a talk at the Arkay Centre on ‘Kaliyan Kanda Kannapuram’, in which he extolled the virtues of Tirumangai Azhwar, who composed 100 pasurams on this Vaishnavite shrine. The experience was enhanced by vocalist Padma Sugavanam, who rendered a few pasurams.

His oratory skills in Tamil and English, interspersed with Sanskrit slokas and hymns made the presentation interesting. Excerpts from the interview:

How did you get interested in temple architecture?

During the annual vacations, my father used to take us to temples and temple-towns. He hails from Chengam near Tiruvannamalai, but I was born and brought up in Chennai. I had no inclination to join engineering, so I studied Architecture at Anna University. For a while, I toyed with the idea of joining the Temple Architecture Centre, Mahabalipuram, but later decided to explore avenues where my passion would find creative expression.

When did you start giving talks on the subject?

It was in 2013, at the Tamil Heritage Trust that I spoke about Araiyar Sevai. In 2009, I was at Pomona, near New Jersey, U.S., where I performed Araiyar Sevai at a temple. Then I spoke about it at the Tag Centre when an exhibition was organised on Srirangam Temple. While I was in Anna University, I would often go to Srirangam to understand the architectural elements employed in the urban design of the town. There I got introduced to Araiyar Sevai and fell in love it. I stayed there and learnt the nuances of the art form. I have also seen the Srivilliputtur and Alwarthirunagari styles of this art.

Are you involved in the renovation of temples?

Yes. ASI asked me to help restore Raja Raja Gopuram in Thanjavur. Then followed the restoration of a temple in Kattuputhur near Namakkal and a Vittala temple of Nayak period in Sathancheri. Authorities of the Chidambaram temple commissioned me to do the drawings of the Chit Sabha, as well as the 100-pillar hall. I furnished the drawings and gave suggestions on how to restore and preserve them. The huge gopuram of the temple in Tiruvellarai near Srirangam was left unfinished with just two tiers. A donor has come forward to help complete it and we are waiting for the permission.

What about your work in Kanchipuram?

It was under Project HRIDAY (Heritage Restoration Documentation Yojana), a PMO initiative, that I was asked to be associated with the work at Kanchipuram by a private group.

I walked with 25 architecture students through each street and submitted my report. It included temples, Sankara Mutt, mandapams and a large number of residences. Fourteen cities in India were chosen for this project and Kanchipuram is one of them.

How did you gain proficiency in English, Tamil and Sanskrit?

I studied in an English-medium school and my grandfather was a Tamil professor, an expert in Sangam literature. I speak both the languages fluently. I got interested in Vaishnavism because of its rich literary content.

I wanted to know about the dissertations of acharyas such as Periyavachan Pillai, where they had used Sanskrit liberally. So I learnt the language. I studied Hindi up to Praveen level. That made my study of Sanskrit easy. Interest is all one needs to learn a language.

Apart from architecture, do you have other interests?

I have been trained in Tamil epigraphy. I have been asked to speak on Tirupati inscriptions, which I will present shortly. I am also a painter and I specialise in frescoes and Gondwana paintings. I have also been conducting guided heritage tours.

What about Carnatic music?

I am a Srividya Upasaka. My mother, who is a veena player, kindled my interest in music. My first guru was Lalita Kumar, who taught me the basics ten years ago. Then my mother began to teach me. I learnt mridangam too.

You seem to have wide-ranging interests?

Yes. Lately, I have been researching on Islam. I read the Koran and offer prayers daily. I also fast during the month of Ramzan. The core principles of all religions are the same. And I am interested in finding the similarities.

(Prof. Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan can be contacted on ph: 91761 48972.)

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 3:02:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Breadth-of-vision/article16091731.ece

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