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A step towards temple conservation in India

Over the years, many ornately carved temples in Odisha have been damaged by vagaries of nature, but the State Government has not been able to take up conservation work in right spirit for lack of a pool of traditional temple architects and stone artisans.

A step towards temple conservation in India

At present, temple architects and stone artisans, who are working in accordance with Shilpa Shastra (study of ancient Indian art of sculpture), are present in three regions - Ghatikia under Khurda district, Lalitgiri in Jajpur district and Mathura near Kabisuryanagar in Ganjam district. However, their number does not suffice for massive conservation and reconstruction works. The State has more than 3,000 temples of which, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is managing 78 monuments for conservation and the State Archaeology has taken up 295 monuments.

It is against this background that the State Archaeology wing in collaboration with the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project is organising a capacity-building programme for 35 artisans from different parts of the State, who work exclusively on temples and restoration work of historic monuments. Five master craftsmen are training these artists in nuances of Shilpa Shastra and Odishan style of temple architecture. As a part of the workshop, that was inaugurated in the last week of September by eminent sculptor of Odisha Raghunath Mohapatra, the trainee artisans are building three temples in the three distinct temple building styles of Odisha. These three forms are Rekha, Pidha and Khakara. They are working on Khondolite stone which was a popular medium in the ancient times.

‘’The ‘Sthaptis’ or temple masons community is fast fading and preserving the traditional temple architectural knowledge of Sthapatis and disseminating the temple building art with younger generations are challenging. Hence, training the temple stone artisans - the knowledge bearer of traditional architecture - is need of the hour,’’ said Mohapatra. He explained that there are two categories of stone carving experts, i.e. the traditional architects (sthapatis) and the artisans. While ‘sthapatis’ are responsible for designing and executing temple structure, the artisans are only concerned with carving.

Culture Director Sushil Das said the State Government requires artisans having expertise in Shilpa Shastra and Kalinga temple architecture in large number to execute the ongoing conservation work at heritage sites. ‘’Through this workshop, we aim to build capacity of the existing temple architects and stone artisans who have been working on temple carvings,’’ he said. The artists were also taken for field visits and attended guest lectures by resource persons.

For the participating artists, the workshop is an opportunity to learn the detailed techniques in temple building. Kirtan Maharana, a master artisan from Nayagarh who is training the artists said such workshops would help hone the skills of young artists who are not as adept in Shilpa Shastra as their ancestors.

‘’It is the lure of money from other projects undertaken by private agencies which is resulting in scarcity of hands for conservation. The young generation is not keen to take up temple conservation while, those who are continuing in the profession are not knowledgeable enough,’’ he said.

If an artisan creates a statue and sells it within 10 to 15 days time, it fetches him ` 15,000, but if he works for temple conservation, the remuneration will be nearly half.

Sushil Maharana, an artisan from Sukhuapada near Lalitgiri, said: ‘’Practical knowledge from seasoned artisans at this workshop will help us to be technically right as far as upkeep of temples is concerned.’’

Author: Diana Sahu | Source: Indian Express [November 08, 2013]

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