The French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) has embarked on the second phase of its project to document endangered murals in temples in Tamil Nadu and will cover nine temples and the Bodinayakanur palace.

The sites are Avudaiyarkovil in Aranthangi, Ramaswamy temple in Kumbakonam, Kothandaramar temple in Kurichi-Vishnupati, Dhenupurisvarar temple in Pattisvaram, Kailasanathar temple in Natham-Kovilpatti, Aiyarappar temple in Tiruvaiyaru, Vaidhyanatha temple in Thittakudi, Mangalanathaswami temple, Uthirakosamangai near Ramanathapuram and Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai.

The IFP has already completed a major portion of digitisation of its photo archives which contain over 1,60,000 photographs of temples in South India and are a unique repository of information on temple art and iconography in South India. The documentation of temple art is aimed at enriching the collection enabling historians and researchers to carry out their work.

IFP has completed a pilot project on the Endangered Temple Art of Tamil Nadu in collaboration with the British Library in the first phase. The second phase of the project is funded by the British Library at a cost of ₹31 lakh.

Dr. N. Murugesan, researcher at IFP, told The Hindu “Temples in Tamil Nadu have murals depicting historical epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharatha. However, many of these works have been wholly or partially wiped out on account of vandalism.

Nature’s vagaries and rituals such as burning of camphor, coupled with lack of any conscious preservation efforts, have put the murals in these temples in a vulnerable condition.

These murals, if protected, will shed light on the art history, heritage and the nature of society,” he said.

The first phase of the pilot project had digitised exquisite murals that are in vulnerable condition from temples and one rock art site.

They include Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple; Kallalagar temple, Alagarkovil; Chitrachavadi Choultry, Narasingampatti; Chenraya Perumal temple in Adiyamankottai and Jain caves of Tirumalai

“A detailed database on the murals was prepared by IFP with description of the documented images. The digitised images will help the future generations to understand historically important temple art and their past culture in addition to providing opportunities for research,” Mr. Murugesan said.

The Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) has taken steps for preservation of these murals and extended support to the IFP for the documentation process.

IFP is now trying to give a new life to these murals and paintings that had been created using herbal colours. Tamil Nadu’s cultural heritage is being rejuvenated because of this activity.

The main aim of this project is to conserve and preserve the murals for the future generation.