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Deccan Herald » Spectrum » Detailed Story
Reclaiming past glory
Raju S Vijapur
The 9th century Jaina Narayana temple at Pattadkal has regained its past glory and beauty with the elaborate restoration work undertaken recently by the ASI.

Monuments represent our grand cultural and historical heritage and preserving them means passing on the great treasure to posterity. The ninth century Jaina (Jina) Narayana temple, built by the Rashtrakutas at Pattadkal, about 22 km from Badami in Bagalkot district, was one such great monument recently restored. But for the efforts of the Dharwad circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the monument would have passed into the pages of history by now.

The conservation procedures adopted by the ASI over a three year period in restoring and preserving this monument has drawn world attention, including that of the UNESCO. The ASI strictly adhered to global conventions in preserving this monument.

Known as ‘Pattadakisuvolal’ in early literature, Pattadkal was the ‘seat of coronation’ of the Chalukyas who ruled Badami during sixth-eighth century AD.

The town was developed as a cultural capital because of its strategic location. River Malaprabha takes a turn to the north (Uttaravahini) here. A group of temples built during the Chalukya period is the landmark of this place and these temples are declared as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.

The Jaina Narayana temple, a Dravidian-genre structure built with the use of intricate construction methods, is also one of the World Heritage Sites. It was built by the Rashtrakutas who succeeded the Chalukyas. Its typical Dravidian character and foundation methods make it a unique monument. Little wonder then that the ASI took a keen interest in giving a face-lift to this unique temple at a considerable cost.

The temple got sunk at various locations, sandstone flooring damaged and stone slabs found missing. This had resulted in gaps at joints. The temple walls were clearly off the plumb, distorting various archaeological members (in Epigraphy, stones used for constructing monuments are called as archaeological members) and their intersections. All this called for virtual surgical restoration.

Before dismantling, a detailed study of the temple and an elaborate documentation of every stone member was undertaken. Each stone course (row) was numbered and the same procedure was followed to identify the interior courses of the closed pillared hall.

The entire temple was then dismantled carefully without damaging the stone members. The dismantled stone members were stacked and the dismantling was done up to the foundation. The foundation depth was approximately two metres below the existing ground level of the temple.

A study of the soil (which is black cotton soil) by the archaeologists concluded that the ancient method of laying foundation for this particular temple had resulted in its present state. The ASI hence decided to provide a base layer of cement concrete.

The reconstruction of the temple was carried out with available old stone blocks by erecting walls, pillar bases and the floor of the entrance porch. Very soon, closed and centre pillared halls, and the sanctum sanctorum were built up to the roof level. Missing portions over the entrance porch were also replaced with new sandstone members. A plinth protection course of sandstone slabs was laid around the entire monument to prevent rain water from percolating into the foundation.

Damaged or decayed stone members were replaced with new ones. The new members were neatly dressed, following the original size and shape but intricate carvings, if any, were avoided. Though the new materials are made as prototypes of the original in material and design, there is a marked difference in workmanship which, it is believed, is intentional so as to distinguish the new from the original.

This particular project demanded skilled stone workers for sculpting the new sandstone members. The ASI has trained artisans for different kinds of construction materials like sandstone, granite, schist, limestone and lime plaster, depending on requirements in the respective geological zones. An ancient quarry site, located in the vicinity of the State Reserve Forest, about five km north of the Pattadkal group of monuments, was identified as the source of material.

Today, thanks to ASI, the rock-hewn Pattadkal temple has a new sheen.

Traditional construction

“We followed the traditional method to reconstruct the temple to retain its basic character,” said Hanamanthappa Telagu, deputy superintending archaeologist, who supervised the renovation of the temple. “Besides, we strictly adhered to international conservation standards from numbering to dismantling to reconstruction of the temple,” he said, adding that this was for the first time in the country that a temple of such a huge size was completely dismantled and reconstructed.

Influence of Shaivism

Dr Venkateshaiah, superintending archaeologist, Dharwad Circle of the ASI, and the brain behind the restoration project, said that Jaina Narayana temple was one of the biggest structures built by Rashtrakuta kings who were devout Jains. Though the external features reveal it as a Jain temple, a Linga inside the sanctum sanctorum hints that it came under the influence of Kalyan Kranthi, launched by Basaveshwara during the 12th century. Followers of Shaivism ‘converted’ temples of other religions into Shaiva temples by renaming or replacing the main idols in them with Linga, the symbol of Shaivisim. Evidence inside the Jaina Narayan temple has enough proof of this, he added.

Missed award

The ASI has narrowly missed a prestigious international award, Asia Pacific Heritage Award, given by the UNESCO to promote conservation of historical sites across the Asia-Pacific region as it had overlooked the involvement of citizen groups or non-governmental organisations in its work, which is a UNESCO mandate.

Expressing its helplessness for not considering the ASI’s proposal for the award, the jury, consisting of 10 international conservation experts, appreciated the ASI’s commitment for conserving heritage resources and said that the work reflected the increasing momentum and standards of conservation throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

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