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painted gopurams-not a new idea?

From: Koustubhan, Purnima, BRMC (pkoustubhan_at_att.com)
Date: Tue Aug 10 1999 - 13:47:15 PDT

Mani-

I would like to address two issue your posting brought to mind. The first is
that color use and perception are highly subjective and everyone is going to
have their own reactions/feelings to different colors. I would not consider
blues, greens, oranges, reds or other bright colors to be inappropriate or
garish when used to decorate a gopuram - especially when they reflect the
colorful dress of the temple devotees. I feel that use of vivid color
(granted there is great opportunity to overdo it) adds a vibrancy and/or
vitality that I miss when approaching other temples/places of worship which
are simply whitewashed. 

The second issue that came to my mind was one of custom. While I like color,
I would not just slap it on any old temple to "improve" its appearance or
"make it better". To me "new and improved" does not always mean "better". I
would hesitate to paint something that never was intended to be. And, that
brings me to a question - weren't these temples built during a time when
most temples had painted gopurams? I have read about and seen several
Vaishnavite as well as Saivite temples which are and have always colorfully
painted. Are we sure that the "somber " versions weren't whitewashed to
conform to Muslim or Victorian British tastes/ideas of worship? Or perhaps
they were merely left unattended and allowed to fade.

Finally, whitewashed or painted, the saddest thing is to see unattended
gopurams encrusted with bird droppings and black mildew.

Purnima Koustubhan