A 10-year-plan to remodel the 1,000-pillar hall at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple in Madurai is finally in motion.
Joint Commissioner of the temple N. Natarajan said that they have begun encasing wooden paintings said to be over 100 years old, depicting the Tiruvilayadal of Lord Siva to avoid vandalism. They will also be working on renovating the temple museum, which currently lacks information or signages on several artefacts.
According to a report on the reorganisation of the temple art gallery by the Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai circle published in 2005, the wooden panels were painted about 100 years ago and were kept alongside the potramarai kulam (golden lotus tank). When authorities decided to paint the temple walls with the same stories, the wooden paintings were moved to the 1,000 pillar hall.
“It is understood that there existed an earlier version of murals at the same spot and these paintings were covering them. The fate of the murals is not known. In this context, these wooden panels become important and need to be preserved with utmost care,” the report reads.
Since vandals for years have drawn over the painting using pencil and paint, the paintings need to be encased in glass covers, the Joint Commissioner said.
An official at the temple said they have been chemically preserving the temple panels, ensuring aeration and avoiding dust to settle. “We will also be ensuring better display arrangement after consulting an expert on how best we can showcase the stories,” he said.
In the next stage, the officials will begin the facelift for the museum which draws around 1,000 visitors every weekend. Apart from this, the Joint Commissioner said that they are working with consultants on minimising waiting time and queues for darshan by inculcating technology in the temple’s daily function. “This is still in the nascent stage though,” he said.