Art gallery throwing light on Sangam age remains hidden in the shadows

A group of school students looking at the paintings displayed at Sanga Tamil Kaatchi Koodam in Madurai on Wednesday.

A group of school students looking at the paintings displayed at Sanga Tamil Kaatchi Koodam in Madurai on Wednesday.  

Located opposite Gandhi Memorial Museum is an art gallery, Sanga Tamil Kaatchi Koodam.

The nondescript building houses several paintings, life-size sculptures and 3D murals depicting scenes from Sangam literature including Purananooru and Agananooru. The gallery, which has potential to become a major knowledge hub and find a prominent place in tourist itinerary, however, lies underutilised.

The gallery, built at a cost of ₹50 lakh, comes under the purview of World Tamil Sangam. It was inaugurated by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa through video conference in February 2016.

It showcases beautiful paintings depicting scenes from five ancient landscapes of the Tamil country: Kurinji (mountain), Mullai (forest), Marutham (agricultural land), Neithal (coastal region) and Palai (desert). “This gallery has the potential to become a great tourist attraction as we can explain to tourists that the Pandya kingdom was prosperous where all five landscapes flourished along the banks of the Vaigai,” said Vani C. Chenguttuwan, a regional-level guide.

The art house also has life-size statues of Tamil poets such as Avvaiyar and Kabilar and paintings and murals depicting important episodes such as King Adhiyaman gifting a nelli kani (amla fruit) to Avvaiyar.

“For students and those preparing for competitive examinations, the gallery will be useful to understand and learn about the Sangam period in a more interesting way,” said R. Saravanan, a staff.

However, on an average only around 10 persons visit the gallery every day. “Even those who visit Gandhi Memorial Museum do not come to the gallery,” said an official from the Department of Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture.

“Many tourists from Southeast Asian countries, especially from Malaysia and Singapore, are interested to learn about the Sangam age. However, when they visit the gallery, it is usually deserted,” said Ms. Chenguttuwan.

The main problem is lack of visibility as there is not even a name board in front of the gallery, said M. Mahendra Babu, Tamil teacher in a government school. “The paintings on a compound wall outside the gallery, indicating the facility, often go unnoticed. In the evenings, two-wheelers are parked in front of the gallery, restricting entry.”

Officials must conduct events, seminars and even competitions among school students to promote the gallery, said N. Sulaiman, former Regional Assistant Director, Department of Art and Culture.

They could also erect boards near Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Tirumalai Nayak Mahal and Gandhi Memorial Museum directing people to visit the gallery, he added.

The School Education Department can also make an annual visit to the gallery compulsory for students, suggested Mr. Babu.

Director (in-charge) of World Tamil Sangam P. Anbucheliyan said funds had been allocated from the department to renovate the gallery.

“A name board will be erected. Renovation works, including retouching of paintings and walls, will be undertaken,” he added.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 6:45:46 AM |

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