KOCHI: For Sreedevi Varma, it was her inquisitiveness, which led her to create the documentary ‘Chitharal’. The documentary, based on the ancient Jain monuments at Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, was released recently at Press club in the capital city.
According to Sreedevi, who has handled the script as well as the direction, the work is a detailed research on the history and origin of the place, taken mostly through interactions with researchers and scholars from the Archeological Survey of India. Sreedevi says, “We received permission from the Archeological Survey of India a few months back. Ten of us were associated with the work, and the shoot was completed in two days.”
A very ancient monument and religious spot associated with Jains in the south, it was the filmmaker’s inquisitiveness to know more, which drove her on the journey to make the film. The director, for whom visiting the relics was not a spontaneous idea says, “I had earlier written an article regarding how there is no concept of temples or idols for Jains. This section of people do not believe in worshipping even a flower. It was this article which generated curiousity in me to visit the place, which is believed to have the relics of an ancient Jain temple.”
The director says that even if it is a story or article, she always had the habit of finding out more about the lifestyle, mannerisms and history of those associated. It was this habit which made her to do more research on this.While what remains of the Jain relics are mostly caves, going back to the eighth century, a Devi temple was later erected in the area by the then Travancore ruler, Sree Moolam Thirunal explains the filmmaker. It was the desire to let the public know more about Chitaral led her to work on it.
Winding up, she says, “There are many who don’t even know about the significance of the place, While Jainism and Buddhism is mostly associated with China and other Asian countries, the site became under the jurisdiction of the ASI. There are many other specialities to the place, one of which is being one of the few places in the south eastern coast to have a particular kind of rock formation which produces water when pressed or sucked on. The rocks also have red algae, which is also an uncommon phenomenon.”
The Chitharal Jain Monuments; also known as Chitharal Malai Kovil,Chitharal Cave Temple or Bhagwathi Temple, Chitral; is situated on the Thiruchanattu Malai (Thiruchanattu hillocks) near Chitharal village, Kanyakumari. Chitharal hills is also locally known as Chokkanthoongi Hills.