Restoration of Ancient Murals

Jul 01, 2012 | Vol. 4, Issue 3
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The 300 year old murals at Balussery kotta have a special significance in the mural heritage of Kerala. Recently under the initiative of the Government of Kerala, artists and conservation specialists renovated these murals to bring them back to its original glory. The conservation work was done by the Department of Archeology, Government of Kerala under the leadership of K Krishnaraj, the Designer in the department and assisted by mural artists Naveen Meppayur and team. The team also got the expert consultancy from Selvarehai, Conservator & Art Restorer at Regional Conservation Laboratory, Mysore.

The 300 year old murals at Balussery kotta have a special significance in the mural heritage of Kerala. Recently under the initiative of the Government of Kerala, artists and conservation specialists renovated these murals to bring them back to its original glory.

The Balussery Kotta Paradevatha temple is one of the important temples of Vettakkorumakan in Kerala and is situated in Balussery in Kozhikode district.  Lord Vettakkorumakan, a form of Lord Shiva is considered a powerful warrior god in Dravidian culture and is worshipped all over Kerala. As the temple name indicates, this temple was a part of a fort and a palace complex, which  belonged to The Raja of Kurumbranad, one of ancient presidencies in North Kerala. In this kingdom, Lord Vettakkorumakan was considered as the ruling deity.

The speciality of the temple structure is that the sanctum sanctorum is a part of the palace complex, done in typical Kerala architecture with Nalukettu (four blocks) and a centre courtyard.

The southern block Thekkini, consists of two rooms with a Lobby (Talam) at the centre, which forms the Sanctum sanctorum complex. The Room facing the west with an entrance is the Sanctum sanctorum. The walls of the Talam are adorned with ancient murals. Entry to these parts of the temple is restricted to priests. The other blocks of the Nalukettu are used for temple purpose.

In keeping with the tradition of Kerala murals, here also the paintings are of some Hindu Gods and the scenes from Hindu mythology, filled with many characters and designs.  The themes and characters in the murals are 'Lord Ganesha (Elephant headed God, also called Ganapathi)', 'Pradosha Nrutham' (Lord Shiva in dancing form)', 'Anantha Sayanam'(Lord Vishnu in lying posture with his wife and subordinates), Kirathamurthi (Shiva as tribal warrior), Vaikundanathan (Lord Vishnu sitting on the Snake God) and Venugopalan (Lord Sreekrishna).

The murals of this temple were in a bad state of preservation with damage and deterioration due to inherent or prevailing conditions. The conservation work was done by the Department of Archeology, Government of Kerala under the leadership of K Krishnaraj, the Designer in the department and assisted by mural artists Naveen Meppayur and team.  The team also got the expert consultancy from Selvarehai, Conservator & Art Restorer at Regional Conservation Laboratory, Mysore.  

According to Krishnaraj, the paintings appear to be generally ascribable to three relative stages, of which the Anantha Sayanam and the Pradosha Nrutham should be the earliest, the main figure work of the Ganesha panel coming next and three themes on the one same panel showing Vaikundanathan, Kirathamurthi and Venugopalan, coming last. As to the colour scheme, the oldest series shows the typical greens, ochreous yellow and ochreous red of the early Kerala murals of the late 17th century or early 18th century represented by the middle or the main phase of Mattancherry (Kochi) series. The Vaikundanathan panel was drawn in 1929 and has a totally different style and colour schemes from the others. 

He also observed that the older series of paintings were done in tempera technique and the pigments used were traditional pigments that comprise of Red ochre, Yellow Ochre, Vegetable green, lime white and lamp black.  The Anantha Sayanam panel is the largest panel (385cm length X 144cm height) with the border designs. The panel of Ganesha is comparatively modern in theme and its subsidiary figures representing various elements like worshipers, the gods, semi-divine beings, nymphs etc.

The first step in the conservation process was the removal of quick lime wash that had been applied many times, over the period of time, on the western wall and on the border areas of the paintings.  Careful removal of the quick lime wash exposed a century old drawing of Kiratha, Parvathi and Arjuna (see photo) at the right side of the western wall. From the lower and upper part of the Anantha Sayanam panel beautiful decorative floral designs covered over by an opaque coating of quick lime have also been recovered. Another achievement is the retrieval of a magnificent painting of Balagopalan drinking milk from the upper part of the Ganesha panel.

Traditional as well as modern techniques were applied for the consolidation of the flakes and blistering and to remove the dust, dirt, lime splashes and wasp nests. The cracks and fissures were neatly filled. Only very large cracks were filled and reintegrated because cracks and fissures are part of the natural alteration of a mural painting and which have to be preserved. Reintegration of lost plaster was done with the identical material.  Pictorial reintegration of the murals was done with artist's water colours so as to match the murals and also to preserve the antiquity of the original painting.

The conservation work done here has lead to the rediscovery of the original colour and brightness of the mural paintings. The restored murals are dedicated to the nation, in a function which will be held on 21 July 2012.

The temple is now managed by a trustee board under the control of Malabar Devaswom Board of Government of Kerala. The entry to the temple is restricted to Hindus only.

Temple timing: 5am to 10.30am & 5pm to 7.30pm

Location/access: at Kottanada, 1.5km north of Balussery town in Kozhikode District. Balussery is 27 km from Kozhikode city.

For details: welcomekeralamagazine@gmail.com
 

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The main importance of this mural is It is the largest single picture of this kind in south india

where is the location?

For details / information, mail to welcomekeralamagazine@gmail.com

This is one awesome article post. Much obliged. Montierth

Thank You

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