Andhra Pradesh

Srikurmam murals ruined by decades of decay

Mural paintings on the inner walls of the Srikurmam temple in Srikakulam district.

Mural paintings on the inner walls of the Srikurmam temple in Srikakulam district.  


Immediate restoration is needed in order to conserve the ancient pieces of art

At least 28 mural paintings with dozens of portraits depicting scenes from Sri Krishna Leela on the inner walls on the south-east and southern corridors of the Srikurmam temple on the Kalingapatnam coast in Srikakulam district are in a state of neglect, and in need of urgent restoration.

Lack of patronage of the art by the State Endowments Department has put the survival of the rare tempera-style of mural paintings at risk. The standing deity of this temple is in the shape of a tortoise, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The temple also has a dedicated tortoise park.

Picture of neglect

In February 2011, an expert team from the Chennai-based Reach Foundation conducted a scientific study on the possibilities for restoration of the mural paintings and offered technical assistance. However, the proposal is hanging fire with the Endowment Department till date.

Speaking to The Hindu over phone on Sunday, Reach Foundation founder member J. Chandrasekaran said that they are still willing to conduct restoration work on the murals. “There is every possibility to restore the mural paintings of the Srikurmam temple. The authorities in Andhra Pradesh do not seem to be serious regarding the conservation and restoration of the paintings. Our team of experts, including those associated with Archaeological Survey of India, are willing to restore them if the government gives us the opportunity,” Mr. Chandrasekaran said.

When contacted, Srikakulam District Assistant Commissioner (Endowments Department) Y. Bhadraji said that he had little knowledge about the previous conservation or restoration initiatives of the mural arts. “There are no immediate plans on paper to restore the mural paintings of Srikurmam temple,” said Mr. Bhadraji.

The majority of the panels have been disfigured over time as whitewash was applied to some portions of the paintings. Some paintings are covered in cement. The wall with the paintings is broken in some locations, reportedly during electrification of the temple in the past. The mural panels are around four-five feet tall.

Rare treasure

The Reach Foundation’s four-member expert committee observed in its report that the murals are rare pieces of art. “The mural paintings on the South and Eastern corners of the Mandapa are very rare. These types of original paintings are not even found in the temples of Odisha, bur are seen here in Srikurmam. These are at least some 450 years old,” the report said. The committee also observed that the inner Prakara walls were painted in the ancient Kalinga style during the 17th CE.

The Kalingapatnam coastal region was part of the Kalinga region and later became part of the Gajapati Kingdom. It later came under the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad who later handed over the region to the French (1707-53). In the 1750s, the coast came under British rule.

Geographically, the temple is located in the middle of two river deltas — the Vamsadhara on one side and the Nagavali on the other.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 10:08:44 PM |

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