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Painted gopurams...

From: P.B. Anand (p.b.anand_at_Bradford.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Aug 12 1999 - 04:32:13 PDT

Dear Mani and Bhagavathas :

While the various concerns raised so far on the 
multi-coloured painting of gopurams are genuine and 
timely, there is a danger here. The meaning of heritage 
and the concept of 'leaving alone' any historical or 
archeological monuments are predominantly a product of 
recent (and mostly a western) approach. If we treat the 
temples as monuments - these principles may well take the 
precedence. On the other hand, if temples are treated as 
'dynamic' - that is an embodiment of society's 
collectively owned good, to be re-shaped and modified to 
reflect the needs and values of a society at a given time,
then changes take place constantly. 

I am not justifying the painting of gopurams in 
multi-colours but to point that there is a danger of our 
comments being superficial and hypocritical. For 
instance, though gaudy, these multi-colour paints may be 
the cheapest water resistant coat that will help 
ultimately to prolong the life of these gopurams. I am 
sure all are aware of a remarkable (and accidental) 
discovery about 9 years ago in Poori Jagannath temple. 
The numerous carvings and statues on the original gopuram 
lay hidden for centuries under a coat of lime several 
inches thick - perhaps to protect the temple from 
mutilation by invading armies in 11th century. 

INTACH (in Chennai) along with a few active local peoples 
was trying to do something to protect some of the 
precious historical paintings in some fo the temples. We 
need to do something but it is an uphill struggle. 
(Anyone walking in the Panguni Utthiram mandapam in 
Thayar sannidhi in  Srirangam can see traces of erstwhile 
beautiful paintings on the walls and ceiling). 

Adiyen Srivaishnava dasan
PB Anand
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P.B. Anand
p.b.anand@bradford.ac.uk