Shravanabelagola being spruced up fast by ASI

GETTING READY: Repair and restoration work is in progress at Shravanabelagola.

GETTING READY: Repair and restoration work is in progress at Shravanabelagola.  

Preparations on for Mahamastakabhisheka in February

R. Krishna Kumar

SHRAVANABELAGOLA: The world's tallest monolithic statue, towering 58 ft into the sky, is the cynosure of all eyes in this celebrated pilgrimage centre as it awaits the grand Mahamastakabhisheka in February.

While the authorities draw up plans to handle millions of people expected to arrive in the days leading to the main event, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Bangalore Circle, has taken up conservation measures on the 1,000-year-old Gomateshwara statue atop the Indragiri Hills whose benign smile seems to be appreciative of the work in progress.

Conservation measures

As the first Mahamastakabhisheka in the new millennium to the statue installed by Chavundaraya, a Minister of the Ganga king Rachamalla Satyavakya in around 988 A.D. — the event is observed once in 12 years — is expected to attract the largest human congregation next only to the Kumbh Mela at Prayag, the ASI has undertaken a series of conservation measures, some of which commenced three years ago.

The Superintending Archaeologist of the ASI, Bangalore Circle, S.V.P. Halkatti said the statue itself is in good condition, but the supporting structures need to be strengthened in view of the massive turnout expected from all over India and the world.

"We identified areas that required to be re-plastered to prevent seepage, and the ASI has followed scientific conservation principles in the process. Traditional construction materials that went into the making of the monument and its surrounding structures have been used," he said. The ASI has outsourced some of the services and roped in conservation architects specialising in restoration of monuments and heritage structures. Dr. Halkatti said conservation efforts were undertaken by the department in the past, but now there are specialists who understand the principles of heritage conservation and are able to meet our requirements.

The Mysore-based firm Ravi Gundu Rao and Associates, which specialises in heritage conservation and conducts research and documentation of conservation methods, is supplementing the ASI's efforts at Shravanabelagola.

R.G. Rao, who was involved in the restoration of Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion in Mysore, Santhome Cathedral, Chennai, the walls of the fort at Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh and Maharaj Sayaji Rao University in Baroda, to name a few, pointed out that conservation intervention in architecture hinges on remaining faithful to traditional building practices and ensuring that there is no alteration in the profile of the construction materials used during the restoration process.

Strengthening the ramparts of the fort on the adjoining Chandragiri Hills, restoration work on the entrance of the ancient Bhadrabahu cave (where the Jain monk Sritakavalli Bhadrabahu, thought to be the last saint to have seen Vardhamana Mahavira, spent his last days after arriving here from Magadha along with India's first empire-builder, Chandragupta Maurya, around 300 B.C.) and leak-proofing and replacing the tiles on the terrace next to the monolithic statue are a few of the works taken up by the firm at Shravanabelagola.

Lightning conductor

Meanwhile, the ASI is installing a state-of-the-art lightning conductor that will protect the statue and an area of 25 sq. km around. Also, the iron railings leading up the hill is to be replaced with a permanent stone railing that will be in synch with the surrounding ambience.

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