Express press service
BHUBANESWAR: The Konark Sun Temple, Odisha’s only World Heritage Site, is about to undergo a major facelift. The plain and bland stone slabs that had become an integral part of the temple structure due to ASI’s conservation work to protect the monument from crumbling will soon be a thing of the past as they are also adorned with carvings and moldings .
For the first time since the conservation of the temple began over a century ago, a pilot project has been launched to decorate the single stones and unify them with the exquisite design and carvings of the monument.
To begin with, a section of the wall on the south side of the Jagamohan was replaced with khondalite stone carvings and moldings to embellish the stone slabs of the monument. Work on the section began last year and is expected to be completed within the next fortnight.
The project is being carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) within the authorized boundaries of the Revised National Policy for the Conservation of Ancient Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Relics-2014.
“The vertical stone slabs on the south side of Jagamohan are given an outline. Geometric and floral patterns are added as well as stone moldings. The decision on this was endorsed during the Konark Temple National Consultation Meeting in 2019, which was held in the presence of the then Union Culture Minister, Prahlad Singh Patel,” he said. said ASI chief archaeologist Arun Malik. The work received the approval of DG ASI.
Malik said that under the revised conservation policy, while ASI cannot redo broken carvings, it can add carvings and moldings to single stones. This was not possible before 2014, as the old conservation policy developed in the 1920s required replacing damaged parts of the monument with plain slabs.
After the consultation meeting, the heritage conservation agency conducted intensive research work on ancient references, drawings, photographs, records and architectural remains of the Temple of the Sun as a reference for the pilot project.
Also, references from Kalinga style of temple architecture and Shilpa Shastras were taken into consideration for the work. ASI used its traditional stone artisans who worked on Jagannath Temple in Puri, Raja Rani Temple and Khandagiri Udayagiri Caves in Bhubaneswar and Khondalite stones were purchased from Tapang for the work. Once the pilot project is completed, the work will gradually be extended to other parts of the monument.
“ASI was considering decorating the vertical stone slabs with carvings after allegations were made in all sections that it would replace the carved stones with plain stones in 2018,” Malik said. About 40% of the north and south walls of the Jagamohan were fixed with flat stones.
“It was done by the British in the pre-independence era for the structural stability of the ancient monument. In fact, that is why the structure is intact today. Additionally, the platform on which stands Jagamohan stand was partly damaged.In the 90s, ASI began to reinforce the platform and to fix flat stones in the area of the platform where stone carvings were missing or damaged.Similar measures have subsequently taken for the Nata Mandap of the temple,” he added.