Kalakkad Shiva Temple Murals to Get Fresh Life

Rural Education and Conservation of Heritage, popularly known as REACH Foundation, is planning to conserve more than 200 mural paintings, which are 400 years old, in the Kalakkad Shiva Temple. The 13th century Kalakkad Temple is located in Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu.

The murals on the inner walls of each of the nine tiers of the temple’s gopuram (tower) resemble those of the Vijayanagara and Nayaka School of the 16th and 7th century A.D. The paintings here are in a dilapidated condition due to neglect. The 185-foot tall gopuram will also be renovated and the 1500 odd stucco figures on the outside will also be mended.

T.S. Subramanian writes in The Hindu

T. Satyamurthy, the former Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and one of the founders of the REACH Foundation, called the murals at the Kalakkad temple ‘an amazing art gallery in each floor for the common man to see and relish the puranic themes in animation.’

They depict scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, ‘Tiruvilayadal Puranam’ (Siva Leela), Siva’s marriage to Parvati, episodes from the life of Saivite saints of Tamil Nadu, Parvati riding a Hamsa vahana, Siva as Bhikshadana, the wedding of Saivite saint Sundarar and so on.

‘The animation in these murals is so superb that they look like modern visuals,’ Dr. Satyamurthy said. They have an influence of Chola School of murals. These masterpieces provide a wealth of information on contemporary life in terms of costumes and ornaments worn by kings and commoners, hair style, musical instruments, and so on. The rishis are shown wearing many types of headgear. Some of the murals have labels belonging to the 17th century.

The paintings will be conserved by removing the dust, using chemicals if necessary, and re-fixing the plaster and filling the cracks with fresh plaster. Integration of paintings will then be done by removing the scrawls in them.