Sittanavasal, a Jain heritage website in Tamil Nadu, battles the weather

Sittanavasal, a Jain heritage site in Tamil Nadu, battles the elements

2022-09-25 02:29:05

With a lot of the artwork in Sittanavasal both broken or vandalised, Archaeological Survey of India has undertaken conservation measures and likewise launched digital checks to trace public entry

With a lot of the artwork in Sittanavasal both broken or vandalised, Archaeological Survey of India has undertaken conservation measures and likewise launched digital checks to trace public entry

A small village in Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu was a significant centre of Jain affect for 1,000 years simply earlier than the Christian period.

Sittanavasal is the identify used synonymously for the hamlet and the hillock that homes the Arivar Kovil (temple of Arihats – Jains who conquered their senses), ‘Ezhadipattam’ (a cavern with 17 polished rock beds), megalithic burial websites and the Navachunai tarn (small mountain lake) with a submerged shrine.

This Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-administered website, standard with children and college tour teams, is in want of higher maintenance.

Sittanavasal is taken into account by historians to be one of many oldest inhabited areas within the district, and a significant centre of Jain affect. “That is the one place in Tamil Nadu the place we are able to see Pandya work. At the least three-fourths of the artwork is already broken, so you will need to defend Sittanavasal for future generations,” R. Kalaikovan, founding father of the Tiruchi-based Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historic Analysis, instructed The Hindu.

Sittanavasal’s website and artwork was first talked about by native historian S. Radhakrishnan Iyer in his 1916 ebook Normal Historical past of Pudukottai State. Subsequent analysis by French archaeologist Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreil together with iconographer T.A. Gopinatha Rao in 1920 additional highlighted the significance of the monuments.

The paintings on the ceiling of the sanctum and the ardha mandapam of Arivar Kovil is an early instance of post-Ajanta cave work of the fourth to sixth centuries, carried out utilizing the fresco-secco method (a course of that dispenses with preparation of the wall with moist plaster).

The artwork at the Sittanavasal rock cave temple in Pudukottai district.

The paintings on the Sittanavasal rock cave temple in Pudukottai district.
| Picture Credit score: M. MOORTHY

The ceiling work present ‘bhavyas’ (exalted souls who work to realize moksha or non secular liberation) having fun with themselves in a pool, filled with blooming lotuses; as we speak a lot of it’s obscured by patchy plastering. Faint outlines linger of dancing ladies on the ‘ ardha mandapam’ pillars. The pillars of the verandah (added by the Maharaja of Pudukottai on the occasion of then Diwan Alexander Tottenham within the 1900s), had been introduced from Kudumiyanmalai. The colors are a combination of plant dyes and mineral components akin to lime, lamp black, and clay pigments akin to ochre for yellow and terre verte for the greyish-green tints.

Artwork in peril

Unrestricted public entry and normal publicity to the weather have led to a gradual fading away of those work. On the Ezhadipattam, inscriptions on the beds have been vandalised past recognition. T. Arun Raj, Director, ASI, Tiruchi Circle, instructed The Hindu that periodic upkeep within the type of conservation (for structural repairs) and chemical preservation (for the restoration of work) of the monument is being undertaken.

The State authorities vacationer centre has a kids’s playground, boat home and a Tamil heritage backyard. However its glory days are lengthy gone. Restrooms are boarded up. Small heaps of litter could be seen all through the compound. Teams of monkeys run free amid guests, on the lookout for scraps of meals.

The Sittanavasal Rock Cave temple in Pudukottai district.

The Sittanavasal Rock Cave temple in Pudukottai district.
| Picture Credit score: M. MOORTHY

To stem the harm, the ASI has put in digital checks by introducing digital ticketing to Arivar Kovil and Ezhadipattam, that helps monitor customer numbers. “The common footfall to the monuments is roughly round 200-300 per day. We’re planning to extend the variety of safety guards apart from putting in closed circuit TV cameras quickly,” stated Mr. Arun Raj. “Programmes are being held to create consciousness about Sittanavasal amongst younger individuals.”

Steady document

Despite the fact that Sittanavasal is a relatively small archaeological microcosm of Jainism in distinction to these present in Madurai and the Arcot districts, it’s regarded as the perfect preserved instance of a Jain cave temple in Tamil Nadu.

Dr. Kalaikovan, who has researched the complicated extensively, stated steady information of Jainism within the area exist from the primary to tenth centuries. “Of the 20 cave temples in Pudukottai district, 19 belong to Saivite and Vaishnavite streams of Hinduism; Sittanavasal is the one Jain temple with sculptures,” he stated.

“There’s a debate about whether or not Jainism’s prevalence in Tamil Nadu started within the first or the third century. Nonetheless, Sittanavasal stays an essential place to check the historical past of the faith. Now we have inscriptions in Brahmi and ‘ vattaezhuthu’, from the third century AD right here, which have been found and recorded. Early Tamil inscriptions from the ninth century AD of the Jain monk Ilan-Gautaman, are contained in the complicated,” stated Dr. Kalaikovan.

Dr. Kalaikovan additionally pointed to the design components within the Arivar Kovil that trace at its doable earlier existence as a Saivite shrine. “The Aavudayar (pedestal) resembles the spherical base seen in Siva temples and appears to have been shaved off earlier than the sanctum was transformed right into a Jain monument. Equally, the lotus medallion on the roof is like that present in Saivite rock-cut temples. The apply of changing Hindu shrines to these of different faiths was frequent on this space,” he stated.

“Although there are various examples of Jain websites in Pudukottai district, Sittanavasal is extra valuable as a result of its work will probably be gone in one other 50 years. Maybe recreating them exterior in separate pavilions and limiting the shrines for analysis visits could be a greater option to protect them,” stated S. Swaminathan, a Chennai-based historical past fanatic and former IIT professor, who has written a ebook on essential heritage spots in Pudukottai.

In a 2003 challenge report, Mr. Swaminathan recommended enhancements such because the constructing of a centre to check Jainism’s affect within the area, apart from enhancing customer services. “However neither the federal government nor company corporations had been curious about taking it up, so I’ve simply put it apart,” he stated.

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