Monday, June 18, 2007

Inauguration of AASAI,the academy of REACH foundation

Date: 16th June 2007
Timings:11 AM to 12:00 noon, followed by lunch.

It was indeed a glorious day in the history of REACH FOUNDATION, and for sure a step in the right direction. The Academy Wing, of REACH foundation, the ACADEMY OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND SCIENCES OF ANCIENT INDIA, as well as the web site registered earlier by our member Chandrasekaran, was inaugurated by the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri. Surjit Singh Barnala amidst the august presence of our founder, Dr.T.Sathyamurthy, the Academy Chairman, Mr.Ravi Sam, the former Election Commissioner Thiru. T.S.Krishnamurthy and the joint commissioner of HR & CE, Tamilnadu, Shri.P.Dhanapal and the Chief Secretary to the Governor Smt.C.K.Gariali, I.A.S on the Diaz and the foundation’s members, educationists, art lovers, Uzhavarapani (temple cleaning) groups from various walks of life as the audience, at the Durbar Hall, Raj Bhavan on 16th June 2007, 11-12 AM. The web site was hosted by trustee PN Subramaniam in his company's server. A special thanks to him.

About all the dignitaries:

About His Excellency Shri. Surjit Singh Barnala

A lawyer cum freedom fighter, Shri. Barnala has always been an active member in Indian politics. Tamilnadu has been fortunate to have him as our Governor since November 2004. He has traveled widely and has represented India in the United Nations, F.A.O., S.A.R.C. and other international organizations. A humane and humble person, he is a nature lover and an accomplished artist, and has scores of paintings to his credit. They are mostly 3 Dimensional and have been exhibited in many National Galleries. He has been actively involved with a number of social causes and has sold many of his paintings for various charities. He has also published two books – Story of an Escape and Quest of Freedom, which was released by our beloved President of India.

About Dr. Thyaga. Satyamurthy, the founder of REACH and director of A.A.S.A.I

Having retired from the Archeological Survey of India recently, he has founded the R.E.A.C.H. Foundation to preserve our cultural properties. A passionate Archaeologist par excellence, he has directed many excavations in India and continues his pursuit of reviving old temples and architecture with great zeal. Under his guidance, the Sangam period Muruga Temple near Tiger Caves Mamallapuram was excavated and rediscovered. He has undertaken extensive excavation in Aadhichanallur, near Thirunelveli, after 100 years of preliminary excavation by the British. Scientific research conducted on these findings have opened many new unknown facts like Aadhichanallur existed 4000 years ago and has given materials to revise the date of Tamil Brahmi scripts. His discoveries were turning points in the research of History of Tamil Language and Culture. Under his guidance the Thanjavur Big Temple Chozha paintings were digitally documented and displayed in the Big Temple premises- a real feast to the eyes for Art lovers of Chola period! It further ensured that the common man could relish and feel proud of our Tamil Heritage.

About Mr. Ravi Sam – Chairman of A.A.S.A.I
Mr. Ravi Sam, a leading industrialist and philanthropist from Coimbatore, is the Director of LMW Group of companies. He belongs to the family that was vital in transforming Coimbatore as the Manchester of South India. He is involved in various social causes ranging from children welfare, education, preservation of nature, conservation of temples etc. and is passionate about Indian culture & heritage. His interest in preserving tangible and intangible heritage is boundless. He has personally played an active role in the renovation of the Bangaru Kamatchi Amman temple at Thanjavur, Sri Patteeswarar Temple at Perur, Renugambal Amman Temple at A.K.Padaiveedu, Aathinathar Alwar thirukovil at Alwarthirunagari, Sri Deepaprakasar – Vilakkoli Perumal Temple at Chinna Kanchipuram etc. In all these places he has shown keen interest to renovate the temples without changing their original characteristics. Modesty is his lifestyle and remains as a pure Indian role model for the Corporate.

About T.S. Krishnamurthy

Mr. T S Krishnamurthy is the Former Chief Election Commissioner of India. He hails from Tamilnadu, the very land which established and pioneered the most ancient democratic governance system. This is evident from the inscriptions at Uttaramerur. It is interesting to note that even though the Tamil Rulers were Monarchs, they encouraged Panchayat Raj by democratic process in our villages 1000 years back. Mr. Krishnamurthy, a firm believer in Indian values & culture, has utilized every opportunity to promote any mission that involves the preservation of Indian heritage.

About Thiru. P. Dhanapal

Mr. P. Dhanapal is currently the Joint Commissioner, HR & CE, Chennai. He has two decades of experience in conservation of temples and represents the Department which is the stakeholder of more than 30,000 heritage monuments in Tamilnadu. He is personally interested in conserving ancient monuments without losing its ancient grandeur.

Notable among the special invitees who attended the function:
Rani Sethupati, Smt. R.P.K Rajeswari Nathiya, the legal heir and hereditary trustee of Ramanathapuram Palace.

Smt. Padma Subramaniyam, the well known Bharathanatyam exponent and danseuse.

The start of the happening:

It all started with Mrs. Latha Suresh, a social activist and friend of our trustee Mr. P.N. Subramaniyam mooting the idea of having the inauguration at the Raj Bhavan itself! As Dr. Satyamurthy was also a good friend of the principal secretary to the Governor, Ms. Gariali, they both opted to fix the appointment with the Governor’s office.

So, on the given date, member Sundhar Bharadhwaj accompanied Dr.T.Satyamurthy to seek the appointment of the Governor with a costly flower bouquet as well the articles that appeared in the recent Front Line Magazine about the Thanjavur fresco painting. As the Governor was a patron of art and an artist himself, he immediately agreed and gave us the day 16th of June and timings between 11 AM to 12 PM. Then started the whole action!

Late night oil burning, by members Chandra and Ashok for designing of brochures, invitations, press releases, banners, letter heads and cards, by members P.S. Sriraman, Madan and Karthik for the designing of the web site contents went in a dizzy.

Dr.T.Satyamurthy was busy on getting the invitees list pruned to 200 (the limit set by the Raj Bhavan) as well fixing up the appointments of the dignitaries to decorate the Diaz. He over ran his new car to the maximum extent!

Other trustees broke their busy work schedules to conduct frequent meetings at each other’s houses to iron out the modalities, while Latha and Ashok were meeting the Governor’s office for all approvals. (Approvals? Yes, what font to print, what size should be the Governor’s name be printed in the card, dress code, what to bring and what not to bring, who should be invited, what should not high lighted, and so on). The dos and don’ts list they gave was longer than the list of invitees we had planned to call! (200)

Shilpa Madan got drilled and trained by Latha Suresh, who had conducted many functions for similar organizations in the Governor’s bungalow.

Madan’s mother, Lakshmi Srinivasan tuned her fine voice for the invocation. Mr. Suresh chipped in with his advice for the display modalities of the web site on the D-Day, while Hariharan, PNS and Sundhar Bharadhwaj the trustees tuned the write ups and speech details which would suit all the audience. Finally the D-Day came!

The entrance was decorated with the fine vinyl printed banners, both in Tamil and English, with a very appropriate backdrop as the picture in the banner! Krishna reaching for the curd (the essence of what is churned out from our minds, the mukthi state or perfection in life is symbolized by the purest white curd. This is distributed for the ones who leap high and attain the reach of the Lord who gives us that pure white curd. His friends, leaping ahead with their hands stretched out, wanting more portray the bakthas reaching out). This is a fine sculpture from Thirukarungudi Perumal temple, near Thirunelveli. Member Ashok who had designed the brochure took this backdrop for the banner as well as the brochure to give a multi dimensional meaning to the word, REACH!

Chandrasekaran, Rajan Ganesh and Sivaraman Kannan took charge of inviting the guests and the press personnel. Mr.T.K.V.Rajan, a friend of Dr.T.Satyamurthy, the editor of Indian Science Monitor, helped the press people to be seated and gave them the press kit, kept ready by Chandrasekaran.

The little kids of the trustees and members gave away the Tamil and English brochures to all the guests.

It was dreams come true for many who had only seen the Raj Bhavan walls, but not entered the premises. People from all walks, academicians, historians, press journalists, other heritage conservation groups’ representative and Uzhavarapani (temple cleaning and reconstructing) organizations’ volunteers turned in their best of cloths to attend the function. Few with their trademark forehead marks (naamam and vibhoothi pattai) were attracting the crowd!

All the trustees were present at the entrance through which the Governor came inside the Durbar Hall to welcome him. Mr.Ravi Sam gave a beautiful Bouquet and welcomed the Governor to the function.
The function started with the lighting of the Kuthuvilakku (lamp) by the Governor, followed by the chief guest, T.S.Krishnamurthy, former election commissioner, then S.Dhanapal, the joint commissioner HR&CE, Mrs. Gariali, the Principal Secretary to the Governor and then Shri. Ravi Sam, the Chairman of A.A.S.A.I.

This was followed by the invocation of the Almighty with a universal song authored by Kavi Yogi Maharshi Shuddhanandha Bharti. The song seeks the Almighty’s blessings for a warless, struggle less world, blossomed with peace and harmony, for a world filled with people having fearless heart like a lion, but having minds like siddha purusha! Mrs. Lakshmi Srinivasan sung the song with utmost emotion and effect which enthralled the listeners.

During his welcome address, Dr. T. Satyamurthy stressed the need to revive interest among the rural mass on heritage values. He said that the ancient builders had made a very strong foundation and only the super structures collapsed due to onslaught of wars and weather at different times. Primarily negligence of the people living around also created further havoc. Now, as we see that we would loose the forms of heritage values like temples and mural paintings permanently from the present scenario, it is heartening that youth from I.T industry are also joining hands with REACH to get into cleaning and preservation activities, which they see as the best form of ‘stress busters’! Dr. T. Satyamurthy also quoted that in states like Rajasthan, there was one temple for four or five villages, where as in Tamil Nadu, we have 3 temples in each village! The stone inscriptions which not only tells us about the king and his donations to the temple, but also tells us the type of living the people lived those days, their life style, their clothes, ornaments, as well as the inscriptions on medicine, etc

Mr. Ravi Sam spoke soft and clear with his baritone voice on how murals are losing their glory by vandalism and graffiti writers. Being a corporate man himself (the M.D. of LMW group of companies, Coimbatore) he also said that it was due to certain visits to the temples nearby, he got involved into the restoration process. He compared the value the other heritage sites in Spain, Rome and Ankorvat has, than the ones in South India. He stressed the need of common man getting into act without blaming Government machinery and that’s the reason he himself undertook this mission of starting the Academy with Dr. T. Satyamurthy. He requested the common public and other heritage temple restorers to understand that the modern techniques like sand blasting and painting with acrylic only worsened the heritage monument and sped the process of detoriation due to their chemical nature. He said the Academy was ready to impart knowledge to wanting persons on how to use conventional but long lasting materials to rebuild a heritage site and also the process of preserving ancient mural paintings. (He has initiated with his own fund the restoration work of mural paintings at the Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal temple.)

Mr. T. S. Krishnamurthy wondered what connection he had with heritage except for the fact that few of his family elders were archaeologists themselves and the coincidence of stressing the world that he also laid rules for the election process while in his post, like that of the Chola king who gave the world the only stone inscription where a monarch lays rules for democratic process of voting and selection of administrators etc. See Uttaramerur Blog. He had come well prepared for his address, by searching the internet the meaning for the word “archaeology”. (He referred the meaning from wikipedia:The goals of archaeology are to document and explain the origins and development of human culture, understand culture history, chronicle cultural evolution, and study human behavior and ecology, for both prehistoric and historic societies.) So he said that it was appropriate that REACH foundation starting this academy for reaching out to the common man, to understand our culture and its heritage value. He quoted the Tamil saying by Avvayar, “Katradhu Kaimman azhavu, kallaadhadhu Kadalazhavu (what we have learnt is just the size of the sand we hold within our palm, but what we need to learn is the size of an ocean!), which he twisted jocularly as , “… Kallaadhadhu internet azhavu” (meaning “... What we are yet to learn is the size of the internet!)

Mr. S.Dhanapal ensured that his department would consult REACH foundation on all restoration activities of temples.

After launching the web site and starting the Tamil inscription course, Shri. Surjit Singh Barnala, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, gave a warm speech. He quoted that India is the only country which has diverse and rich heritage. He said that he was happy that educationists and informative archeologists are bridging the gap and reaching the common man to enthuse interest in heritage preservation. He also remembered his olden days, in 1969, when he was the conservator at a place called Sanghrol in Punjab. He said, after digging a huge mudden bund, he was amazed to see lots of icons, sculptures, coins and other artefacts of ancient importance and immediately muted the idea of developing a museum at that site. With his efforts, he could bring out a beautiful museum today which stands as a estimony to ones dedication. he said that Indian heritage is older than any other civilzation in India and said that the period ranging from 2500 BCto 1500 BC (Kushan dynasty) was a bed of rich artefacts, seen in India.

The Rani of Ramanathapuram Samasthanam, presented shawls to all present on the Diaz. The daughters of each trustees had the privilege of handing over the bouquet to the Governor and the other dignitaries through Mr. Ravi Sam and Dr. T. Satyamurthy.

The Thanjavur Fresco Painting reproduction photo was presented with a well decorated frame to the Governor as well as to the other dignitaries presented on the Diaz.

The team that worked behind the screen for this function was busy collecting names and addresses from audience who wanted to be a part of REACH or AASAI.

The Uzhavarapani group people were the happy most. Yes, REACH had made the unthinkable possible! The commoner, the people from the Uzhavarapani groups who were only cleaning the temple sites, but were groping in dark without the knowledge of reading the inscriptions or knowing how to build the temples, met the mighty that day! They also were finding difficult to get appointments of the higher ups, like the commissioner of HR& CE or for that reason meeting Dr. T. Satyamurthy who is a busy man. That day, they met everyone and discussed their problems freely. It is this Uzhavarapani groups who are getting the names and addresses of heritage sites, mandap and temples to add to the data base REACH is creating. The details would be updated in the web page regularly, so that any philanthropist or NRI belonging to a particular village may get interested in restoring his native temple through REACH!

The function ended with the singing of the National Anthem and a sumptuous lunch having only South Indian traditional items as the menu. Puzhiyodharai (Tamarind rice), Thengai Sadham (Coconut rice), Akkaravadisal (Sugar rice with ghee, a special dish made only during the Marghazi month at Vishnu temples), sambar rice, Curd rice, Dhal rice with ghee, Pappad, Ennai Kathirikkai (Oil soaked fried Brinjal), Adhirasam (sweet pan cake made of rice flour and jaggery, fried in ghee). The members were gifted a sleek looking Tamil Calendar and a small sloka booklet by Shri. Agri. Kannan, a book by Shri. Madhukar titled “Your journey through light – a personal guide to stress management, life enrichment and enlightment and a pamphlet containing the prayer song of the day, penned by Kavi Yogi. It was overall a memorable start. Many from the audience have already given us data of dilapidated temples as well as mural paintings in many temples. We have taken note of the same and would be surely following up to seek the avenues and revenues for restoring the same.Pictures, videos - courtesy: member Ashok Krishnaswamy and his team - Thanks to him!