HEADLINES:
May 24 2018
UNESCO award for Srirangam temple
02 November 2017

Its conservation project competed with those from nine countries

The massive renovation and restoration effort at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, executed through the public-private partnership model, has won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017 for cultural heritage conservation.

The temple bagged one of the four Awards of Merit from a jury comprising nine international conservation experts, which considered conservation projects from 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region.

The renovation of the temple began in June 2014 at the behest of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who was elected from the Srirangam constituency back in 2011. The massive project was executed in phases, at a cost of about ₹25 crore, with contributions from the government as well as donors. The kumbabishekam was performed in two stages — in September and November 2015.

The temple, considered the foremost of the 108 divyadesams, is situated on an islet between the Cauvery and the Coleroon rivers. It has seven prakaras and 21 towers, including the majestic 236-feet-high rajagopuram.

The renovation of the temple involved painstaking work by experienced sthapathis, under the guidance of experts in archaeology for over a year.

“The old grandeur of the temple has been restored. About 60,000 tonnes of construction waste/debris was removed during the renovation. The hundred-pillar and thousand-pillar mandapams and various other mandapams, some of which were out of the public view for long, have been restored, as were several sculptures in the numerous sub-shrines. It is very satisfying that the hard work has been recognised,” said an elated P. Jayaraman, joint commissioner of the temple, even as the temple’s employees burst crackers in front of the rajagopuram to celebrate the occasion on Wednesday evening.

Words of praise from the UNESCO jury came as music to the ears of the temple authorities, especially in view of the criticism of the renovation project from a group of people, who have also taken the issue to the court.

“The project has revealed the original fabric of the shrines, water bodies and landscape within the temple’s four inner enclosures, which were once obscured under layers of inappropriate modern additions and tons of debris. Employing traditional construction materials and techniques, the restoration work was carried out in an authentic manner by local craftspeople in accordance with ancient building principles and rites. The temple today attracts great attention among its devotees and supporters, whose renewed sense of pride and custodianship will ensure its long-term sustainability,” commented the jury.

“This is an example of how government-private partnership can work and complete the work in record time. It has also proved that restoration can be done without the use of cement or any modern tiles, which can be replicated. In temples, it is also about restoration and not [just] renovation,” said Venu Srinivasan, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the temple.

The second phase of renovation of damaged portions of the temple ramparts is set to begin soon. A few other conservation works are also on the anvil inside the temple, officials said.

 

 

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