Tamil Nadu

Sands of time running out for temple murals

IN A SHAMBLES:The Athmanathaswamy temple built by Manickavasagar at Avudaiyarkovil is considered a storehouse of murals. The intricate murals which have been drawn using the native material such as turmeric and charcoal are damaged because of the vagaries of weather.— PHOTOS: A. MURALITHARAN  

Several ancient murals painted on the walls and ceilings of various prakarams of Sri Athmanathaswamy Temple, built by Sri Manickavasagar at Avudaiyarkovil, a coastal village about 45 km from here, are gradually eroding with passage of time.

Most of them have been in a state of neglect and their condition has been turning from bad to worse in the last few years due to deposit of dust, soot and humidity.

The damage was aggravated during the monsoon last year.

The temple is under the maintenance of the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam.

Murals can be found on several walls and ceiling at the prakaram around Sri Manickavasagar mandapam, also known as ‘Pudhukovil’ at the entrance to the temple, the front ‘periya mandapam’ adjoining the 1,000-pillar mandapam besides the ‘Panchakshara mandapam.’

They depict incidents from the life of saint-poet Sri Manickavasagar and anecdotes from ‘Thiruvilaiyadal Puraanam’.

The murals on the ceiling give a hagiographical account of important temples of Lord Siva and several designs used for ‘ chunkudi ’ saris. They have been painted with native materials such as turmeric and charcoal and most of them date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

M. Raja Mohamed, noted epigraphist and former Curator of Government Museum, pointed out the temple was a storehouse of murals, but several of them have already been lost.

Images of Sri Kala Samharamurthy, Veda Rishis, a big-sized bird carrying six elephants, an anecdote showing Sri Manickavasagar blessing a physically disabled girl and Siva temples at Mylapore, Tiruvanaikovil and Tirumullaivasal have been depicted in the murals.

“The ancient murals are intricate works using natural colours. Charcoal, lamp soot, yellow ochre have been used in the original murals,” Mr.Raja Mohamed said.

“Complete restoration may not be possible but the existing ones can be preserved through careful and meticulous efforts.

Latest techniques could be used for removing air bubbles,” he said. Some of the images are now discoloured due to the humid condition of the coastal village apart from deposits of dust and soot.

“The murals at Avudaiyarkovil were fading away due to passage of time and lack of awareness about the value of the treasure. Care should be taken to ensure that any attempt at restoration does not lead to further damage” observed A. Manikandan, founder of the Pudukottai Tholliyal Aaivu Kazhagam.

Peeling off

All the murals have been documented and at the corner of each mural, a number has been clearly marked. Details of each have been written below. But, most of writings have peeled off.

According to temple sources, a plan has been drawn up to preserve the mural to the extent possible, but funds were a constraint.

Although an effort was initiated about a decade ago, it did not materialise. Since then, the condition of mural has worsened.

However, the few murals which are in tact particularly, on the ceiling, could be preserved, the sources said.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 9:39:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Sands-of-time-running-out-for-temple-murals/article14407791.ece

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