Chennai Heritage Trust shows ways to analyse temples

Chennai: Thousands of people throng temples sprawled around Mylapore and the surrounding areas. Most are probably clueless about a temple’s rich history.

To address several simple unknown facts, the Tamil Heritage Trust in the city recently came up with an interesting workshop: How to see a temple?

The workshop was organised by this volunteers driven organisation which has been functioning for the last ten years conducting various programs related to the Indian heritage.

Kishore Mahadevan, a volunteer who was part of the workshop spoke to News Today.

“People go to temples to worship and do various other celebrations. One of the things that we perhaps tend to overlook is the architecture of the temple, the sculptures, their meaning and the history behind them,” he said.

“So we thought it will be a great opportunity for us to teach about various aspects of a temple to the public.”

The programme was put together in a very quick fashion, focusing on three vital parts; architecture, iconography and inscriptions that are present inside a temple.

It was an introductory session helping those who came forward to understand the basics. “We wanted it to be starting point where participants can be encouraged to read more and explore more temples,” said Kishore.

He then narrated how the workshop went about. “For the architecture of a temple, experts explained how there are different Vimanas, the structural elements that are present and the patterns to look for,” he said.

“Like for example we explained how the arches differs from temples of a Pallava period to a Chola period or how the pillars of a temple evolved from one era to another. We helped them understand that there are different names and aspects to various parts of the temple.”

The second part of the workshop included the topic of iconography. “We explained them what to look at when seeing a sculptor,” said Kishore.

“So as an example, we spoke about the different forms of Shiva sculptures and told them to observe the ornaments worn by the deities or the type of clothes.”

The workshop concluded with explanations on inscriptions. “They are the gateway to our past. Lots of information about our history are in inscriptions. The lecture covered about the content that we can find in an inscription,” said Kishore.

“There are some inscriptions that speak about how the village administrations worked in the past, or how women lived during that time.”

The workshop was attended by nearly 20 people. “Once it was over, the participants where taken to the Kapaleeshwarar Temple for a walk,” he said.

“So we took them to different sections of the temple and spoke about the architectural elements that we had learned in the session.”

They are planning to conduct another session soon. “We are hopeful to host perhaps for a bigger crowd soon,” said Kishore.

Once you go to a workshop like this, you start looking at a temple in a whole new perspective. Tamil Heritage Trust also hosts monthly talks on Indian heritage and culture that happens regularly in Mylapore, on the first Saturday of every month.

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Mohammed Rayaan