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Re: painted gopurams

From: anita ratnam (
Date: Tue Aug 10 1999 - 08:27:40 PDT


I read with interest the recent posting from Sri Mani Varadarajan about the 
trend in garish colors adorning our temples. This is true and a most 
unfortunate occurrence. Sri Vaishnava temples were known for the soft sand 
and grey colors by which the delicate artistry and 'saatvik' features of our 
deities were clearly seen.The many carvings and sculptures portraying scenes 
from our epics and puranas would emerge delicately from the heights of the 
temple towers. While the fondness for bright colors is well known with 
Tamils, the clothing and sarees bearing the bright contrasts of yellow 
(manjal), earth red (arakku), green and orange being the favorite shades, 
Sri Vaishnava taste was always pointed towards the understated.Our temples 
were always known for the quietitude of the worship and the intense 
saturation of bhakti which was never loud and overtly proclaimed.

During the renovation and remodeling of many temple gopurams, the popular 
tastes of the local people seem to have spilled over from folk and film 
culture onto the sacred spaces of worship. Significantly( certainly 
thankfully), the senior members of my family while supervising the 
restoration of the massive Nambi shrine at Tirukurungudi,insisted on the 
colors remaining like the original bleached sand.

I have nothing against color,since I wear a lot of it in my personal life. 
But I would rather not have my senses assaulted with a plethora of gaudy 
hues when I enter the portals of a Perumal temple. Just look at how 
beautiful the Vishnu temples in Kerala are!! An oasis of calm and serenity!


Anita Ratnam

>From: Mani Varadarajan <>
>Subject: painted gopurams
>Date: Mon, 9 Aug 1999 17:10:22 -0700 (PDT)
>Dear Friends,
>Many of our divya desams' ancient, beautifully sculpted gopurams
>are now being painted, presumably with the idea of making them
>more lifelike and attractive.  In my opinion, this is a bad
>trend, as the colors tend to make the sculptures gaudy and
>cartoonish, with garish greens and reds, without any subtlety
>whatsoever. I would much prefer they be left as is, so we can
>enjoy the ancient shilpis' artistry by itself.
>One good example is the Tiruvallikkeni gopuram.  What in ancient
>days was a beautiful white/gray gopuram is now blue, green, and
>red, looking more like a gopuram of a small Amman or Murugan
>kOvil than our traditional Vaishnava ones. I understand that
>after the recent samprokshaNam Sri Sarnga Pani Swami's gopurams
>have also been painted in this fashion.
>What do others think of these colors? Does anyone really like

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