We had earlier seen the amazing pillars of Srirangam Sesharaya mandabam in many posts. Such is the wealth of sculptural mastery in this pillared hall. it caught the eye of the master artist Silpi, to so masterly capture the stone in his work. Since there were many lovely sculptures in the hall, had requested my good friend Mr. Ashok to go there in person and do a full fledged shoot in the pillared hall. But what he came back with wrenched my heart.
The majestic horse pillar, lay is such a damaged condition. The unbelievable method in which such a lovely lance was sculpted into stone, lay broken. If only the master sculptor who sculpted these beauties saw this ! below the awesomely endowed lady stood majestically holding her head up in typical tamil pride, despite all the wanton destruction around. The rest of the sculptures have all been lost in the pillar.
When did this destruction happen, since no records are available for this, i searched on the net and came up with this 1868 albumen print
(Photograph from an album of 41 albumen prints by Edmund David Lyon. Close-up of carved horses and other figures in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha temple of Srirangam. Lyon’s ‘Notes to Accompany a Series of Photographs Prepared to Illustrate the Ancient Architecture of Southern India’, edited by James Fergusson)
Seeing the pillar damaged during that period itself gave me some respite – atleast they were not damaged during recent times. But then what i saw next made my blood boil. The Kings of our land, gave grants and etched them into stone for these magnificent edifices – of art, to be a virtual repository of art, but how are we using them – a heritage cycle stand!
These beautiful Dasavathara pillars are being scratched by the handles and pedals of the cycles. Similar is the plight of numerous rare sculptures in this hall. Srirangam is the foremost – The Temple for Vaishnavites and if this is the plight there, i don’t have words for the lesser known temples.
One look at these pillars, would delight even the least artistically inclined soul, the sculptor has poured out his heart, fed the creation from his own blood and created masterpieces, it baffles me as to why its doesnt appeal to these heartless souls. They show as much respect to these treasures as a dog would give a lamppost. Decency limits me from writing more.
Can these sculptures be restored. Do we have the intent first and secondly is there the artistic know how. Even during the pallava period, the beautiful shore temple in mallai had its main deity – the vishnu idol’s hand being broken – and the court poet Acharya Dandin writes of the pallava sculptors mastercraft that he seemlessly restored the broken arm in his immortal work – Avanisundarikatha
Maybe, some good soul who sees this post, will take it up with the ` you know who’ and give these sculptures a new lease of life, or atleast the bare respect they deserve.