Koothambalam of Guruvayur temple wins UNESCO laurels

Award of Distinction for cultural heritage conservation

Updated - December 19, 2020 12:46 am IST

Published - December 18, 2020 08:49 pm IST - Thrissur:

The renovated Koothamablam of the Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple.

The renovated Koothamablam of the Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple.

The renovated Koothambalam of the Sreekrishna temple, Guruvayur, has been selected for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for cultural heritage conservation. It

received the Award of Distinction.

The UNESCO introduced the special award to acknowledge the role and contribution of cultural heritage to sustainable development.

The restoration work on the Koothambalam hall valorised the affinity between architectural heritage and associated living, spiritual and artistic tradition, said the UNESCO in its statement.

“The project has sensitively conserved one of the few remaining structures in southern Indian designed for ritual performances of the Koodiyattom,” it said.

The project team stripped away layers of incompatible enamel paints and obtrusive modern services and master carpenters reinstated the intricate woodwork and warm natural timber finishes of the original building. The new insertions enhance the quality of the performance space and are designed in a reversible manner, in keeping with international conservation norms.

Votive offering

“With all works governed by ancient architectural philosophy, vernacular building practices and Hindu rituals, the conservation project itself can be seen as a votive offering, which celebrates the renewal of the historic building as part of safeguarding of a spectacular but vulnerable intangible heritage,” the UNESCO noted.

The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for cultural heritage conservation, since 2000, has been recognising the efforts of private individuals and organisations that have successfully restored, conserved and transformed structures and buildings of heritage value.

TVS Motor Company has sponsored the renovation programme of the Koothambalam.

Kanippayyur Krishnan Namboodirippad, architect M.M. Vinod Kumar and Elavally Sivadasan Achari led the works with the support of the PWD wing of the Guruvayur Devaswom and Devaswom Chairman K.B. Mohandas and former administrator S.V. Shishir.

This is the second time UNESCO is recognising the heritage conservation works of temples in Thrissur district. In 2015, Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur, was selected for UNESCO ‘Award of Excellence’ for the preservation of heritage.

Call for awareness

Kerala architecture used to be closely connected with nature. But many of the old temples had been demolished and concrete structures had replaced them, said architect Vinod Kumar. “Architectural conservation has to be done scientifically. There should be more awareness of the need for conservation of heritage structures and we need experts in this field. Most importantly scientific conservation should become part of the norms of the Devaswom Board. These structures will set an example for heritage preservation in the future,” he said.

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