Odisha: Nayagarh-based sculptor uses skills passed on by ancestors to rebuild Puri mathas

When the state government chose him to redevelop mathas under the Srimandir Parikrama project, Kirtan was more than happy to take up the job as it would allow him to contribute to the first-of-its-kind revamp of the 12th-century shrine’s periphery.
Nayagarh-based sculptor Kirtan Maharana
Nayagarh-based sculptor Kirtan Maharana

BHUBANESWAR: Reconstructing temples isn’t new for Nayagarh-based sculptor Kirtan Maharana. The 62-year-old artisan has been doing so since the age of 14 and has been associated with the renovation of several popular monuments in the state including the Srimandir, Sun temple at Konark and Lingaraj temple.

When the state government chose him to redevelop mathas under the Srimandir Parikrama project, Kirtan was more than happy to take up the job as it would allow him to contribute to the first-of-its-kind revamp of the 12th-century shrine’s periphery. And for 150 more sculptors across the state whom he handpicked for the project, it meant a steady flow of work and revenue which had become difficult of late.

“I have done renovation of Srimandir several times in the past under the guidance of the Archaeological Survey of India and state Archaeology. But this is the first time I got a chance to work on the ancient mathas that have been integral to the shrine,” said Kirtan. Trained in Shilpa Shastra by his ancestors, he and his team of 150 workers have been instrumental in redevelopment of 17 mathas and three temples. This includes creation of Garbha Griha, Jagamohana, and Nata Mandapa of the temples. The structures are within the 100-metre radius of Srimandir.

The mathas and temples have been rebuilt in Kalingan style of architecture. To maintain the traditional aesthetics, the exterior walls and floors of matha buildings have been clad with khondalite stones. In some of the buildings, carvings have been done on the pillars and arches.

“Each matha temple and its ‘gadi’ area has been renovated in order to elevate their spiritual connection with the temple complex,” said the sculptor.

Kirtan and his team started working on the 20 structures in September last year. Hailing from districts like Ganjam, Dhenkanal, and Nayagarh, the artisans worked for a daily wage of Rs 1,500.

“There is a crisis of stones today, particularly khondalite, due to which the number of sculptors for temple-related stone work has dwindled considerably. However, since the state government started temple renovation and redevelopment in many parts of the state, we have been getting a steady flow of work,” said Kirtan.

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