Sunday, November 17, 2013

REACH Heritage Awards 2013
All kindly attend the function and make it a grand success.


Sunday, September 09, 2012

Thandarai - mystic call from Shiva

The Swarna Kalikambal sametha Ratnagarbeswarar Shiva temple alias Kunteeswarar Temple at Thandurai (now called as Thandarai) 10 kms off the Uttaramerur - Vandavasi road, was saved by rampant demolition, thanks to the alert Taxi driver Shri S Natarajan our REACH member. The priest who attended the temple claimed that in spite of many attempts none came to restore this temple, and he took a vow before the Lord promising over a burning camphor that he would give up priesthood, if even if REACH could not renovate this temple! Such was his agony and anguish. He was very convinced that proper technical trouble shooting is the need of the hour and not just demolishing and rebuilding is needed. When we saw the temple, we had no clue of its name, even after checking the government records. Invoking Deiva prasnam, we found that Kubera and his consort came to this Ratnagarbeshwarar, seeking refuge when his wealth was under siege! When Chandi becomes black after drinking the blood of the asuras she kills, she prays to her Shakthi within herself to get the black colour changed to a golden hue, thus becoming Swarna Kalikambal! So it is said that those who have problems in inheriting their due wealth or having skin ailments will get solace by worshipping Ratnagarbeshwarar and Swarnakalikambal. The Kuntiswarar temple, later we came to know hardly gets any maintenance and when in early 1900 some good sould wanted the Navagrahas to be worshipped by all, replanted them from inside the Mahamandapa to a smaller mandapa built outside the compound premises. This and wrong positioning of Bhairava and Surya sculptures lying in some corner of the compound, has led to the down fall of this temple. Also, the prasnam revealed that 2 theerthas prevail here and true to that we saw one well inside the compound and the other bigger well which still gives drinking water to the village just outside the present compound. 
Sure to the title of the blog, it was a mystic call to us and also to Natarajan, the taxi driver, as both were not sure why this temple came in our dreams and haunted us for days together till we came back to start working on the renovation. Natarajan sold his taxi, but lost most of the money unplanned. REACH makes all renovations using its own funds till date. Work is in slow progress as labour costs is a big constraint.

The Perumal temple adjacent to this Shiva Temple was pulled down due to ignorance of the facts that

1) Any heritage temple beyond 100 years if altered or broken down without the knowledge of archaeological department would attract punishment and 

2) Absolute poor knowledge on heritage temples’ renovation techniques. 

The picture below shows the old photo of the Vishnu Temple which we pulled out from old records and the stark modern tiled mega bathroom like tiled and multi-colured renovated (?) temple stands today which reminds us the sad plight of many such temples getting mutilated by spurious and dubious sthapathis.

Huge money spent and the donor still running around for donations to waive off his loans, stones and inscriptions of the old temple have been pulled down and are lying around the new construction even today! The dwajasthamba with the king with folded hands is lying aside int epicture above seen in the left hand corner. Is he pleading mercy?

Thandarai Shiva Temple
Shiva temple renovation is REACH FOUNDATION
Now that the Shiva temple came to our notice, we sprung to action by submitting a letter to the HR&CE department to renovate it on our own funds. The vegetation had gone deep on either side of the junction between the Arda Mandapa and Maha Mandapa. The weather coarse above which had been re-laid a century ago, had been too heavy to withstand, hence the dilapidation. The weather coarse turned out to be almost one meter, which was carefully broken and removed. Tree killers were applied to kill the vegetation and uproot the charred roots away. The stones were removed and re-laid carefully. Lime mortar work is in progres; the vimana rough work, the levelling and weather coarse, roofing work is under progress.

The inscriptions of Kampana Udayar, late Nayaka kings and the later Telugu  chieftains reveal that in last of 18th century the village was called as Sitaramapuramu and the mandap outside the village entrance is also in a dilapidated condition with some rare teleugu inscriptions seen on its ceilings.

The reliefs around the temple are also amazing. Than Thurai (water body) implying Kanchipuram flooded with Vegavathi, Parvathi hugging Shiva is well crafted on the side wall. Is she protecting Shiva or hugging Shiva to protect herself?

Also are interesting the mystic indication of Chandrasekara sitting on the bull by just showing a mere crescent moon above nandi. Many such reliefs are crying for relief! White wash was removed and they were relieved!

Kamakshi hugging Shiva when Vegavathi gets flooded
Symbolic representation of Chandrasekhara on rishabha
Devotee worshipping Karthikeya above
Cow milking to perform Abhishekha on Lingam
Did Kavadi exist those days? A clown with a club riding a rafter?
 Many such temples languish, why not they be converted to heritage temples with due care which would also attract heritage tourists to such places?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Heritage Wardens Symposium in Coimbatore

Symposium for Heritage Wardens – Coimbatore 1st July 2012

Day 1 (30th June) 

On Day 1 of the tour on 30th June 2012, a few members of the Reach Foundation along with the company of local temple savers group headed by members S.R.Krishnaswamy, Yuva Senthil visited two temples. The first stop is at Irugur Sri Neelakanteswara swami and Soundareswara swami temple. This 8th Century Siva temple complex houses two Siva temples and a newly annexed Vishnu temple. Many popular kings and local chieftains have renovated this complex including Cheran Veerasenan (835 A.D.), Uttama Cholan ( 1110 – 1117 A.D), Rajaraja Devan( 1120 A.D), Karikal Cholan( 1152 A.D), Kongu Veera Pandian( 1265 – 1285 A.D) and none other than Tipu Sulthan( 1782 – 1784 A.D). The Sivalingam here is said to be formed as a ‘Suyambu’ murthi. It is said that a small dent in the lingam is formed due to Kamadenu’s milk since it used to perform pooja by pouring it’s milk on the lingam.

This temple is currently being managed by Sivasri N. Ramasamy Sivacharya who is 61st generation managing trustee of this temple. Sri. I.R. Nagaeswarasivam who is the 62nd generation trustee of this temple gave us a tour of the temple, explained the history behind the temple. This temple is currently renovated by building a new Rajagopuram and some repair works being done. The Sivacharya after hearing some expert comments from REACH members have agreed to consult us before doing any demolition or renovation work done in this temple.
Later in the day, the team had visited a dilapidated 1200-year-old temple Sri Venkateswara Perumal thirukoil, which is in Parameswaran palayam, Devarajapuram. This temple is also called as “Kongu Tirupathi”. Kongu Cholas, Kongu Pandyas and Kongu Cheras had maintained this temple. Various natural calamities and the Muslim invasion has ravaged this temple very badly.
The team had explored the possibilities of renovating the outer corridor, which is currently built like a shed. The damaged columns which contain beautifully carved Dasavathara images and beams have been strewn outside the temple. The team felt that It could take up to a year as all the columns and beams have to be sorted out, measured first before the reconstruction could begin.

 Photos from Devarayapuram

Day 2 (1st July)

Day 2 of started with the ‘Symposium for the Heritage wardens’ of Coimbatore city. 

The symposium inaugural address was by Dr. T. Satyamurthy, Archaeologist and Founder, REACH Foundation. Dr. T. Satyamurthy spoke about the importance of Temple for a town and the conservation methods that would carry the temple for ages further on. He also referred that with the infusion of funds, people were going for major repairs that were unwanted and adopting methodologies that were needless. The very conservation work could be done for a fraction of the amount being spent.

Referring to a case in Thandarai village, near Chengalpattu in Kancheepuram district, Mr. Satyamurthy said that the person tasked with protecting a Vishnu temple there had completely demolished the heritage structure and proposed to construct a new one for around Rs. 80 lakh. Luckily, the people there along with the contractor had not done much damage to the old, dilapidated Shiva temple there. The members of the Foundation were able to restore the temple to its glory for a fraction of the money that was proposed for the Vishnu temple.
 “The aim of conservation should be to make the heritage structure or temple appear old but fresh.” This was the philosophy that underlined the conservation work in Thanjavur Periyakoil and a few other very old temples.
Mr. Satyamurthy also took on the argument that the ‘Agama Sastras’ (traditional Indian codes) did not allow people to innovate and that it curtailed artistic freedom. Such an argument was false because the code for sculpting applied only to the central deity. The sculptor was free to run riot with his imagination, which one could see in the hundreds of thousands of statues/figurines on the several layers of temple towers.
Ravi Sam, Chairman, AASAI, said that the committee the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had promised to constitute to conserve should not just be made of bureaucrats but also archaeologists like Mr. Satyamurthy. He appealed to academics/school managements to constitute heritage clubs so as to create awareness among students and also parents.

Er. Rajendran, who runs an Architecture firm along with his son in Tanjavur specializes in renovating the old houses, mosques, temples using traditional methods, gave an excellent presentation showcasing his mastery on the subject. He also showed some pictures of beautiful old world Tanjavur houses, temple chariot resting places and an excellent chatram built by Nayaks which existed even until 10 years ago. He insisted on taking the heritage built over thousands of years to more generations to come.

All the heritage enthusiasts who attended the function have commented that they are enriched with the expertise the foundation has in the conservation and preservation of heritage monuments.

While returning from Coimbatore, the team had visited Avinasiappar and Perunkarunaidevi temple in Avinasi town. This is one of the Padal petra sthalam sung by Sundarar. The Sthala puram of this temple mentions about a child, which was swallowed by a Crocodile, was brought alive after 3 years as a 3-year-old boy by Sundarar. The sthambam in front of the temple narrates the story by an exquisite carving of a crocodile swallowing a boy.

On entering the temple, you see excellent carvings on the wooden doors and the impeccable craftsmanship in the stones, which are a delight to see. On the contrary, many of the temple inscriptions have been covered with “Swastika” markings, uncared devotees ruining it with markings in oil etc. Many beautiful carvings have been damaged by ruthless use of Sand blasting, paintings neglected or white washed. After having a nice prasadam with courtesy of the sivachariar, the team left the temple with a heavy heart.

Day 3(Aragalur and Koogaiyur)

Koogaiyur is a Village in Chinnasalem Taluk, Villupuram District located 13.6 km distance from its Taluk Main Town Chinnasalem. This town’s temple Swarnapuriswarar and Rajanarayana perumal temple complex which is filled with sculptural beauty, 4 musical pillars producing various sounds and loads of inscriptions. This temple is one of the Panchabootha sthalams on the banks of river Vasishta. Of course, the purpose of our visit is to enjoy the beauty of the temple and to familiarize the locals about the heritage conservation of such excellent monuments of ours. This temple is yet another temple in the verge of ruins due to years of neglect and improper maintenance without having the basic knowledge of conserving such heritage structure. The temple is kept in despair due to lack on popularity and access.

There is a dilapidated Siva temple in a small village Aragalur ("six moat place") is a village in Salem district. It is about 6 km from Thalaivasal and 70 km from Salem. Aragalur was the capital of Magadai mandalam ruled by the well-known Bana Chieftains around 1190-1260 CE. Aragalurudaiya Ponparappinan Rajarajadevan alias Magadesan was the greatest in this dynasty.
The temple known as Solesvaran Temple, gives the old name for the village as 'Thayinum nalla chozhiswaram'. The temple is constructed using Granite stones with no mortar. There are many inscriptions surrounding the Adhishtana. This would give loads of information about this place and the temple if deciphered. Not sure whether this is recorded anywhere in our government records. There is a Nandi in a separate Mandapa in front of the temple. There is another small temple for the goddess adjacent to the Solesvaran temple and the construction is similar to the main temple. Locals believe that this was constructed by/in honor of Kulothunga Chola III. The temple is covered with a lot of vegetation and is being used as a dump yard for the cattle and it’s feed. It was really painful to see the temple kept in such a pathetic condition. A water tank had been built in front of the temple by the local authorities blinding the view of the adjacent Devi shrine. This temple needs immediate attention. Most of the temple surroundings have been occupied by locals and not cared for its well being. With blood oozing out as tears, the team left the place heading to Chennai earlier than expected, due to an unusual visitor, the rain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The stone temple which widens but not fall off!

REACH team comprising Chandrasekaran and Parandaman visited the Panchapatti village (not drought but should have been named after 5 villages that were governed together, we believe), at the request of the local heritage enthusiast Shri.Balan, who is a retired Physical Education teacher in a local school and the one who has almost found some 4-5 inscriptions on his own and have got them registered in the Aavanam repertoire, some 12 kms from the city Karur, known for the famed Karur Siddhar Samadhi in the Pasupatheshwarar Temple and also the single stone Vishnu temple, nearby.

We visited the Maduranthaga Choleeswaramudaiyar temple in Panchapatti, which really is standing tall all these years, after it was built in the riegnal years of Rajendra-I.

A huge neem tree is trying its best to wither off the temple, but surprisingly the Garbagruha and the Arda mandapa are standing apart, yetretaining its main frame work of stones,with some fading inscriptions read out by ASI epigraphists, Mr. Karuppaiah and Mr. Alagesan, just a week before our visit on 14th March 2012, which gives us the name of this temple.

Set amidst thick Sunflower filed, the village VAO and the villagers were very cooperative and were willing to work out a plan to renovate this small but beautiful temple.

Some surprises were in store as we saw a small hillock at a village called Sengal (சேங்கல்) with a closed Shiva temple, with some stunning stucco work atop the Vimana, and a patch of grantha script!

Next was a thriller one could not imagine! And that story comes in the next blog! Don't miss it out!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

4th February Heritage trip

We had some great feedback for our heritage trip we had on 4th February 2012.
Mr. Veluswamy has recorded the travelogue very well with some nice photographs here
Ms. Priya Baskaran also has written on the Rayar Kulam Hanuman temple in a very nice manner. Read here.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Lecture at IIT Madras

Dr T Satyamurthy, founder trustee of REACH FOUNDATION gave a special lecture on heritage structures, in the one week symposium conducted by the Civil Engineering Department of IIT, Madras, in January 2012.

The photos are here to see.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Epigraphy Classes concluded.

The 3rd batch for Tamil Epigraphy taught by Shri S Ramachandran and the first batch of Grantha taught by Shri Vinod Rajan concluded in Jan 2012. The students were taken for field visits to Pudhur near Ocheri. The students were overwhelmed by the teaching of Shri Ramachandran and wondered how Mr Vinod could teach and read and understand many languages including Grantha.

AASAI the academy wing of REACH FOUNDATION congratulates both the teachers and the students who attended almost all classes each Sunday and to the filed trip. They were from diverse fields, youngest being a student studying 8th standard to the eldest being a doctorate in economics..!

The photos are here for you to see.