CHENNAI: In a recent annual cultural fest conducted by Vel Tech University, there was talent and creativity in every nook and corner. While some showcased it by dancing, singing and performing other visual arts, a four-member team was busy on stage near the university’s Vel Murugan auditorium. A peek into what they had on display showcased one of the most famous temple sites in Sotuh India — Brihadeeswara Temple (Periya Kovil), Thanjavur — in clay.
The clayey temple and its deities were moulded and modelled within six days by Jeshwanth, Yashwanth and Hitesh Kumar Rana, first year mechanical engineering students, and Saravana Kumar, faculty, civil engineering department. “We made this unique attempt to pay tribute to those architects who are lost in history,” says Saravana.
“I hail from Thanjavur and the temple has always inspired me with its architecture. For our fest, I wanted to do something with this idea. I have also done small idols before, but this is the first time I worked on something this big,” says Saravana, who also is a coordinator for the university’s fine arts club.
Sharing his idea with the three students, he says they were thrilled by the idea of creating a replica of the world-renowned temple. “Hitesh has always been interested in arts and crafts and he roped in his friends. We used to work after college hours till late night,” adds Saravana.
What’s most unique about the concept is the revival of Kundavai Nachiyar and Raja Raja Chola I through their idols. “We wanted to show who created this magnificent temple. Kundavai Nachayir is often ignored and forgotten and this was like homage to her,” he shares. Also, the team worked without having any photograph or digital reference of the structure. “We had a rough reference. Since Saravana sir is from Thanjavur, he knew every details of the temple and we just worked on his instructions,” says Hitesh.
Idols of gods and goddesses including Ganesha, Lakshmi, Kaali and Shiva were among the display. “Can you imagine they built such magnificent structures when there was neither technology nor other facilities? I have the temple etched in my heart and may be that’s why we didn’t need a reference,” explains Saravana.
So, were they inclined towards history and architecture? “Not at all!” laugh the students. “We are mechanical engineers and used to design automobiles and what not. This was our first feat with clay, history and architecture, thanks to our mentor. We didn’t expect such a response though. It is gratifying after working hard all night,” shares Yashwanth.
“They gave me their full support. But the only challenge we faced was the clay cracking due to heat,” says Saravana, “We used clay mixed with varnish to conceal the crack in the end.”
With spectators and other students showing interest in what they had achieved, the team plans to create other structures in a large scale. “It was fun playing with clay, but we want to do more. Being in the first year, this was a great learning opportunity and we want to explore more,” shares Jeshwanth.
With their first step in clay modelling a huge success, the group plans to explore interesting ideas. “Now that we know what we can do, we are not going to stop. We are researching new concepts and will showcase something much bigger next time,” adds Saravana.