Friday, October 02, 2009

Saraswathi Pooja by REACH FOUNDATION

Sudden impromptu idea given by member S. Natarajan made us inform all members by SMS and emails about conducting the Saraswathi Pooja last Sunday 27th Sept 2009. It is also part of our heritage as we are conducting our inscription reading epigraphy classes now regularly, it is right on our part to start conducting the Saraswati Pooja from this year onwards.
The venue : Class room at Ramakrishna Mission Hr Sec School
at Danadapani Street, off. Burkit Road, T. Nagar, where our regular classes take place. Luckily, we saw the black board with the Bank of Parota ( !!) exam marks and cleaned it before the start of the pooja and changed the same as 'Saraswathi Pooja - REACH foundation) .
Natarajan was kind enough to buy all requisite items along with the picture of Goddess Saraswathi for the pooja. Founder Dr. Satyamurthy, our epigraphy teacher S. Ramachandran along with his daughter Sindhu, trustee PN Subramaniam, Natarajan and his two daughters who sang melodiously Varaveenam and Srichakra Raja Singhaasani.. all attended to make a grand start.
Mr. Varadarajan a historian and our patron also graced the occasion.

P.R.O Chandrasekaran started the pooja with the traditional mantra chanting and did the pooja rituals. Small but elite crowd has indeed made a start and we wish the forthcoming years'
celebrations would be on a larger scale and participation.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Inauguration of 2nd batch of epigraphy

The Inauguration of the second batch of 'Introduction to Tamil Epigraphy' conducted by REACH- AASAI went on well on 2nd of August 2009, with the serene atmosphere of Ramakrishna Mission school adding the positive energy around. Swamiji Padamasthananda, the secretary of Ramakrishna mission at T.Nagar inaugurated by lighting the lamp and delivering his key address. The photos are uploaded here

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Pls see this link..

Kindly join yahoo group: temple_cleaners,donate generously for restoring such temples..

Lime removal at Varadaraja Perumal temple -Kanchipuram

The famous Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram is known for its intricately carved 100 pillar mandap. Due to ignorance, it was white washed for ages and the pillars now have thick coats of white wash mostly at the bottom half of the pillars and the mandap's periphery. A philanthropist, native of Kanchi,is now a famous patent lawyer having office at almost all the cities in India, had vowed back to get his beloved deity's temple back to its glory and he had selected REACH for the cleaning of this pillar mandap, the kitchen (filled with black carbon soot, again settled on the walls for ages). So we had started the work last week and have put the best ASI trained workers and one full time supervisor for this task. First phase comprises of the mandap work, later after few months we'll be cleaning the whole kitchen (madapalli for Thaligai) to remove all the soot and carbon using scientific methods.
See the pictures here..

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Concluding part of Inscription classes - Pulavar Kannayyan's speech on ancient numbering system and maths!

As a concluding part of the Inscription Classes, as per our teacher Shri.S. Ramachandran's advice, we had called upon Pulavar Kannayyan of Mayilam who is a living encyclopedia on ancient number and arithmetic prevalent in early Tamil period and an inscriptions' enthusiast., who is just 78 years old young! When REACH contacted him for making arrangements for his visit to the session we wanted to conduct, this young man denied any carfacility, said he will just travel by bus and wait at T.Nagar bus stand at the appropriate time!

The D-day came and today (10th may 2009), he was waiting for our member S. Natarajan to pick him up from T.nagar bus stand.

Venue: Takkar Baba Vidyalaya, Vinobha Hall, Venkatnarayana Road, T.Nagar, Chennai,India

Even though we started late, waiting for the VIPs to arrive, we had a punching and effective compering and start by S.Natarajan. I missed taking a snap of Natarajan, but I will compensate next time. Sorry, Natarajan, for missing you in the photo shoots!.

The invocation song was sung by Ms.Swarnamalya, our student who was also instrumental in getting us the class rooms for free, when the epigraphy course was conducted at Janaki- MGR w omens' college, Adyar.

Pulavar (Poet) Kannayyan was introduced to us by Shri.S.Ramachandran, our epigraphy teacher. Pulavar Kannayyan had been a village accountant, a bold and straight forward man of yester years, aspiring to learn and learn more, be it ancient maths, inscriptions, historical facts, records from almost all government treasury related to land records, etc.

In his speech, Pulavar Kannayyan briefly explained the various forms of ancient Tamil numbers, the fractions, as well as the proof of short hand prevalent in marking land records in Tamil short-hand some 400 years before, much before the advent of English Pitman's short hand form!

Member-students, Shri. Prabhakaran and Subramania Pillai shared their awe and experiences they had in the epigraphy class they attended and voiced the mind of all students who had attended Shri.S. Ramachandran's class, which comprised of not only epigraphy lessons, but also the bit og history and facts related to each of the inscriptions we studied.

T.S. Subramaniam, the HINDU magazine and Frontline's senior reporter who also attended the
classes as a student was in praise of Shri. S. Ramachandran's knowledge, and thanked on behalf of all students Shri.Ramachandran for concluding the class in grand style with the most effective introduction of ancient numbers and systems by the only scholar now available, Shri.Kannayyan.

Our founder Dr.T.Satyamurty emphasized the need of making more students and interested persons from the common pool to learn inscriptions, as well as art appreciation from temples and heritage buildings to enable the common man become more aware of the value of our heritage. He was happy to note that the students enjoyed the classes and announced that plans to have more sessions would soon follow by the month of July 2009.

REACH plans to have the certificate issuing function in a befitting manner soon for the students who have attended the classes and also is planning for regular heritage trips, art appreciation courses and epigraphy classes.

The photos are uploaded here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heritage tour - Thiruvadigai or Thiru adigai

Thiruadigai or Thiruvadigai is the first place near Panruti we visited en route to Kumbakonam while going for our Symposium for Heritage Wardens held during 1st week end of January 2009.

This temples is a beauty of sorts. No words to describe.

Dr. Nagaswamy in one of his writings write as:

At Thiruvadigai there are a few archaeological relics which deserve notice. The Virattana temple at this place is a Pallava foundation carrying inscriptions of the Pallavas Paramesvaravarman, Tellaru erinda Nandi and Nrpatunga. Paramesvara’s inscription relates to another shrine of this place. Nandi’s inscription refers to a gift of gold for worship in the temple while, that of Nrpatunga, refers to renovation to the temple, carried out by him. In the pakara, at the western end there is a Caturmukalinga, decidedly a Pallava sculpture of 7th century A.D.

The story in Dinamalar in Tamil is still elaborate.

Life of Appar, his conversion from Jainism to Shaivism, this temple where the first Devaram was sung, and the first ever place where 'temple cleaning' (உழவாரப்பணி) took place from the hands of Appar / Thirunavukkarasar is worth reminding here.

The photos are here to see

Me and Natarajan always look out for rare sculptures and unknown beaties of the temple. See the two sculptural stone reliefs.. on the pillars of the front mandap at the entrance. Any explanations or mythological stories available for the same? Reader please explain me.

Also were stunning the rare mohinis in the entrnce and different dance poses we see, as we enter in.

Now, we see also a big stone sculpture in sitting posture as soon as we enter the temple facade,on our right, and yell with joy, "Hey, see Buddha statue, this proves this site is ancient than ever, atleast Buddhism survived here some 1800 years ago!

"Why is it confirmed as a Buddha? Why not Jaina Theerthangara statue? " asked my friend Natarajan. Why... I explained. Readers please come back with your answers to claim whether it is a Jaina Statue or a Buddha statue..

Also impressive were the paintings on the ceilings at the front mandapa of the temple. See pictures..

I wish they are not destroyed in the name of Kumbabishegam Samrokshanam, renovation by the HR& CE.. as how it happened in Madurai Meenakshi temple, in Thiruppulivanam, and many more temples. These paintings are real stunners and we should protect them from removal, white washing and graffiti.

Also, another repetitive feature of Pallava period temples are that the availability of Somaskanda Murthy / Parvathi full decorative sculptures seen behind the Shiva Linga, mostly made of limestone.

here this Thiruvadaigai temple has the biggest Somaskanda murthi (family portrait!) surrounded by Brahma and Vishnu, sizes of say, 8 to 10 feet! The lighting inside is very poor and so we could not see them properly. I requested the priest to show the deepa aradhana twice to ensure what I saw was believing! Such a big somaskanda !!!

Also unique are the over flowing scultpures around the sanctum sanctorum.Sadly the originallime sculptures are recoated with heavy and gaudy acrylic paints,which look horrible. Otherwise the originals would have made them more austere, authentic and elegant, ala..heritage vintage stuff.

PIL should be applied to stop sand blasting, usage of modern paints and materials in renovating temples; May be then, the Governments would not tamper such priceless beauties..

Thiruvadigai makes one visit this temple again and again..

Next week I will try to write on Innambur and Thiruperambiyam we saw near Kumbakonam...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Visits after week end classes searching new inscriptions

Dear Readers.

Natham Parameswari mangalam at ECR road is known for its beauty and we from REACH along with Vadapalani Uzhavarappani group and also Rotary Club of Central Aditya are maintaining the village as well as the temple.During one post- class trip, we found a new inscription written above the Amman shrine entrance and brought it to the class for the students to read. This revealed that an independent clan lived in this area after Raja Desing of Senji. Ramachandran, our teacher immediately put it on blog through the e-media and the link is shown here:

More were found during each week end and tomorrow's class (29th March 2009) I would bring few more for you all to decipher.

Chandrasekaran J

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Inauguration of inscription reading classes -18th-Jan-09

Inauguration of inscription learning and reading contact classes were started for the first time by our organization, the academic wing AASAI (Academy for Archaeology and Sciences of Ancient India), of REACH Foundation.

Dinamalar editor, Mr. Krishnamurthy, himself a historian and numismatic expert was the right person to inaugurate this course. He said by trying to concentrate and decipher our inscriptions, the reader would sharpen his/ her brain, there by also becoming successful in other competitive exams.

Dr. T. Satyamurthy REACH Founder said it is the need of the hour to educate our youngsters in such heritage related subjects and make them be aware that the older technology and methods used in heritages were far more superior than the modern architecture and other sciences.

S. Ramachandran, the epigraphist (who is conducting the classes at the same venue (Dr. MGR - Janaki college for women, near Adyar bridge, every Sunday 7-9 AM, at the Natya department) quoted how it is easy to decipher and read the language once one get engrossed into the subject. and he was happy to know that more students from different walks of life have joined the course just to enrich their knowledge and love they have for our culture and history.

The inauguration further got a boost by having other ASI members epigraphist Dr. Rajavelu who presented a powerpoint on 'introduction to epigraphy' and Mr. P. Sriraman who volunteered to run the powerpoint in his laptop. This shows that if a common man approaches the experts, they do come down to decipher their knowledge for the benefit of others.
REACH was happy to see many visitors thronging the show after seeing the articles which appeared in Mambalam Times and T.Nagar times.

Mr. H Chandrashekhar one of the trustees weclomed the gathering and actor and Bharata Natyam danseuse Ms. Swarnamalya (also a teacher in this Natya department, who got us this classroom for conducting the courses) thanked the gathering.

REACH would be compiling all the course material and will upload the on-line course after this 16 week sojourn is over.

The academy plans to have study tour and heritage tour be conducted for the students inbetween the class room study to further strengthen their acquired knowledge.

The articles which appeared in Dinamalar, Tamil vernacular newspaper, the next day and

The website of S. Ramachandran, run by one of his admirer Mr. Swaminathan of USA.

And the photos taken in the function by member Chandrasekaran can be seen here in this link

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Symposium for heritage wardens held

Seminar for temple cleaners called as “Uzhavarappani’ members, the heritage wardens on creating ‘awareness of how to repair, maintain and restore heritage temples’ held on 11th Jan 2009, in Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu.

During a short sojourn to Swamimalai, our P.R.O, Chandrasekaran just left all the planning and printing, proof reading and sending invitation to one man- Shri. Lakshmi Narayanan @ Vammanji @ Vasu. He took the challenge and called his friend, SBI Swaminathan to his help. With Komal Shekhar pouring in addresses and spreading the word, and within a 10 day span, the function was held there, successfully, for all to see.

Venue: `Pavazham’ Marriage Hall at Bakthapuri Street, Kumbakonam.

Seeing our serene motive and enthusiasm, the mandap owner had put around lots of digital banners of big temples to make it a lively back drop.

Members S.S. Mani, Natarajan, Rajan Ganesh, Chandrasekaran , along with new comers Jagdish, Krishnamurthy had one VIP guest coming all the way from Calcutta ASI, Dr. Tapan Bhattacharya. When Dr. Tapan spoke to Chandra our convener, he was told that the symposium would be fully in Tamil and Dr. Tapan would not be able to follow. But his enthusiasm to share his knowledge in Lime Mortar Technology made his senior allow Dr. Tapan to join us for this symposium!

The Chennai group of members, Rajan Ganesh, Chandrasekaran, Kalakkad SS Mani, Natarajan, Trustee P.N. Subramaniam and his wife Anu Subramaniam, along with new joinees Jagdish and Krishnamurthy were happy to have 2 ASI men with us. Mr. Sriraman the conservationist who is in-charge of the St.Geroge Fort Museum and Dr.Tapan Bhattacharya, who had come all the way from ASI, Calcutta, knowingly that this symposium would be for rural temple cleaners, and in Tamil. He wanted to bring down knowledge to their level and impart his lime mortar technology to these groups. We started off on 10th morning 7 AM, amidst fear of not getting the diesel for our van, due to the strike announced by the petroleum companies. We just surrendered our cause and the need to go to the symposium to the Lord and proceeded. By the time we reached Banrutti, the fuel problem got resolved and we re-filled our tanks.

En-route, we went to Thiru Adigai, the place where Thilakavadhi, the sister of Appar converted her brother into a Saivite. Appar was suffering from an incurable ailment. Thilagavadhi smeared the ashes of Thiruvadigai Shiva Temple on Appar’s forehead and the ailment just disappeared! This was also the place where Appar started the first Uzhavarappani – temple cleaning activity.

The temple walls at the entrance had beautiful sculptures of various dance poses and also a mysterious king’s statue, whose name none knew there! The front mandapa has some beautiful ceiling paintings made of natural colours. Huge mortar made sculptures decorate the periphery of the sanctum sanctorum but unfortunately thick coats of acrylic colours have spoilt their sheen. A separate blog will highlight this temple.

Then by noon, we went to the Great Gangai Konda Cholapuram, built by the Chola Emperor Rajendra Chola. Rajendra just tried to imitate his father’s another grand magnum opus temple, the Big temple, in Thanjavur, but rectified all mistakes which were done by making changes in the height of the tower and allowing large spaces around the temple tower inner walls, cleverly converging on to the top. The inner layers of each thala also were spacious and he had filled those, layer to layer enabling masons or visitors go above the central point of the sanctum above the moolavar at any higher pedestal. The daunting gigantic Dwarapalakas again showing the Vismaya mudras and again showing the snake -eat elephant-pressed under the toe of the dwarapalaka Rakshasa, showing the Lord inside. One can imagine what a huge figure the sculpturer of the King wanted to make of the Lord, just by showing his Dwarapalaka at the entrance!

Again, instead of the Stone Nandi we see in Thanjavur, here we see a massive lime mortar made nandi at the entrance as well as a Lion entrance through which it is learnt the Royal family get to the foot of the well nearby. This Lion shaped entrance is also a Lime stone marvel. Dr. Tapan Bhattacharya, who joined us, wondered on this massive lime stone figurines and said that this is the first time in his service he is seeing such a massive single piece sculpture proving the worth and strength of lime mortar! Worth his penny!

The Lord bigger in diameter (65 feet) was bedecked with best of garlands, being the Thiruvadirai day.

Also the sculptures seen around the temple peripheral walls make all go crazy and a icon lover go into raptures. We can feel the skin and dough inside the stone sculptures live alive all these 1000 years! Especially the Karthikeya, Ganesh, Ayyappa, Shiva, Parvathi panel, the Chandeswara Anugraha panel et al. I will reserve a separate blog just for GKC, otherwise I may loose focus on writing about the symposium. So let’s move on further towards Kumbakonam. By evening some one in the group wondered being Thiruvadirai, the auspicious day of the year for Lord Shiva, why we avoided going in the Chidambaram- Kumbakonam route! But the Lord satisfied our needs by making us visit the Thiruadigai temple, the Innamboor Shiva temple as well as the Thiruperambiyam temple. Another blog will again show you all the visits of these temples.

Entering Kumbakonam, we all had a sumptuous lunch at member Swaminathan’s house with Thiruvadirai Kazhi (a puuding made of rice flour and jaggery and ghee, steam- boiled to naught to get the best of taste) thus completing our best Thiruvadirai experience ever, one had had.

On the D-day, 11th of January, friend and temple restorer Lakshmi Narayanan (another devotee with the same name), who is already working on Nambarai temple restoration work, helped by joining us as early as 5 AM helping in getting the banners tied and stage arranged. He also started the programme with invocation sung in Tamil, some Devarams, and slokas in all Gods.

The reception was well handled by Jagdish, Krishnamurthy and Rajan Ganesh. Some of the books – all Siva sthalams which were sung by the Moovar and another book on Alwar Divya Kshetrams were bought by the visitors. Registration of new members, and data on old dilapidated temples in and around Kumbakonam were also recorded in separate note books.

After the invocation, Dr. T.Satyamurthy, REACH founder Trustee invited all members and gave a brief on how REACH is imparting knowledge to the rural folks and creating awareness on how to restore and maintain heritage temples. He also emphasized that if the old building materials were available, the cost also would be minimal, only involving skilled ASI trained workers to re-lay the stone structures. On making lime sculptures around the Vimana one has to study the period, the style and replace them with similarly looking ones.

The main speech was by Tamilnadu State archeology ex-chief, Dr. Nagasami, the man known for arguing in London courts to get back the famous stolen Shivapuram panchaloka Shiva statue to our country, which was stolen and was made available in a London museum! He also was instrumental in reviving epigraphy to a larger extent. He reminded his olden days, when he tried to build a small group of young volunteers from colleges and schools in this same city, Kumbakonam and tried to clean and maintain temples. He lamented that all efforts were put to no use that most temples lost their sheen due to negligence and carelessness, most sculptures and icons, inscriptions losing their way to heavy white washing and sand blasting. He lauded the constant effort of REACH on reaching the rural public, educating them on the importance of restoring our heritage.

The came Kudavoil Balasubramaniam, another archeologist retired from the State archaeology department, who is an authority in Chola history. He made a PowerPoint presentation on showcasing how the sculpturers of the Chola period mastered in remembering and mastering all the Tamil hymns sung by the Saivite Trio. (Appar, Sundarar, Sambhandar). The sculptures or inscriptions depicted in various temples high lighted by him clearly explain the stanzas of the hymns and the deep knowledge the makers had in Shivapuranam as well as in the life history of the Saivite trio. A rare inscription showing the entire Devaram song starting as ‘Mariyaar Karandendaiyem... .’ in Thiruvidavaai temple near Kumbakonam was seen on the peripheral wall of the sanctorum by Mr. Balasubramaniam years before. He rejoiced seeing that, and had made arrangements to mark around the stone to show the world that this rare stone be preserved. Unfortunately, those who renovated and did Kumbabhishekam had mismatched all the stones and this piece of history was lost for ever. He requested the restorers to at least appreciate the real methodology and the hard work the workers had put in those days, and not re-arrange the stones with which the temples were built.

Dr. Tapan’s simple method of explaining how lime is hundred times better than the exothermic natured cement was worth the show. He said that lime is recyclable and hence it breathes. During winter it absorbs moisture and breathes out the same as water vapour when the temperature picks up. A simple cycle depicting lime stone becoming calcium hydroxide after grinding and mixing with water and again hardening back to become Calcium Stone was well explained. That’s the reason the more seasoned Calcium mortar stood against time and weather than any modern cement.

He said that each lime mix had different ratios of water, sand content. He assured the audience that he would volunteer in any lime related restoration project and involve himself fully and see to that the heritage structures are restored to the best of his ability.

To read the "Lime cycle" theory, log in to our yahoo groups' files section, (temple_cleaners)

Later Pest Control of India guys, coming unprepared could not show how temple rodents, bats and cockroaches could be driven away with their products L

Mr. Komal Shekhar spoke on behalf of the Uzhavarappani members and detailed the reluctance of many to go by the traditional methods, rather getting carried away by fancy sponsorship and materials, like acrylic paints, mosaic tiles and cement. He said he spreads the need of maintaining the traditional methods wherever he tires to initiate locals in rebuilding a heritage temple.

Mr. Umapathi sthapathy could not make it to the function and last but least SBi Swaminathan made the vote of thanks but also made some comments which wee not in good taste to the audience. Any way for the hard work he and Mr. Vammanji had put in, we at REACH forgot what unsavoury things Mr. Swaminathan spoke about.

Sundhar Bharadwaj our trustee, took all the pains to escort Dr. Nagasami from Chennai and back and made a flash visit, amidst his busy schedules.

All still remember the best food catering from Sholapuram (rather the correct way to spell is Cholapuram Sundaram) services. Their Kalkandu Rice, Sambhar Rice, Thayir Sadam, Chips et all, still brings out the hunger pangs out, whenever we think of it! We also succeeded in taking back parcels for those who returned to Chennai by van. We are fortunate that when we went back, Dr. Satyamurthy accompanied us and we saw the Manambadi temple enroute to Chennai. The status of this temple is seen here. We wish we restore this temple as our next project, if the Lord shows the way…

Our symposium pictures.

Some news item which appeared in the local vernacular papers, informing about the symposium, a day before!