CHENNAI: Right from a gopuram-like structure at the entrance to visual representations on the walls, VR Chennai’s designs have been inspired by ancient south Indian architecture. In its latest attempt to trace the rich heritage of south India, VR Chennai has launched a set of walks for tourists and visitors. The Kathai, Kalai, Parampariyam walks — curated by Virtuous Retail and conducted by historian V Sriram — was launched this weekend. It has been designed to take visitors of all age groups through a narrative of the rich history of the region, all of which are showcased at the mall in different ways.
“This is the first time we’re doing a walk within an enclosed modern structure. The beauty and challenge are in explaining the south Indian elements dispersed all over the temple architecture of the centre. We will be looking at the three traditional elements that are mandatory for any tour — legend, art, and history of the local culture,” said V Sriram. The Kathai walk explored the tales of Dasavataram — the 10 manifestations of Vishnu.
The inspiration for highlighting Dasavataram at VR Chennai came from the earliest known epigraph that mentions the ten avatars together at one place. It is located in the Adi-Varaha Temple in Mahabalipuram, which was once the centre of a bustling empire.
Likewise, the Dasavataram finds itself a place spread across the VR centre in the form of installations, murals and wooden doors. The first avatar is Matsya or fish. The form of Matsya has been represented as a three feet long catfish, laser cut out of metal sheet located in the Tamarai Sadukkam, a pond-like structure a few metres down the entrance of the mall. The second avatar is Kurma or turtle. The Kurma form can be seen carved out of greenstone and is placed along a water stream. The third avatar, Varaha is represented in the form of a water fountain with a boar head for a water spout.
The fourth avatar, Narasimha, is depicted in the form of a hand-painted mural on the ceiling of the airlock lobby — neither inside nor outside — as the legend goes that Narasimha can neither be killed on earth or sky. The fifth avatar is Vamana or dwarf, is represented as a five-metre long mural. The sixth avatar is Parasuram with an axe. The mural depicts the moment when Varuna, the god of water blesses Parasuram while he sits in meditation in Gokarna. All the murals are the works of Cholamandal Artists’ Village.
Of doors and sculptures
The seventh avatar of Ram is represented in an inspired, hand-carved interpretation on the main door of the Ramaswamy temple in Kumbakonam found at the kannadi gopuram. One of the doors at the VR centre is inspired by the same design. The eighth avatar is Krishna. But, there are no visual imageries of him in any form. The ninth avatar is Buddha in Kali Yug. Standing at 2.3 metres, there’s a sculpture of Buddha. The tenth and final avatar of Vishnu is Kalki in the Kali Yug. Represented in abstract sketchy wire forms and elements of light, this interpretation is an ode to the puranic tale of the coming of Kalki — on top of a white horse with a sword in hand.
The Kalai walk on May 11 will showcase the indigenous art and architecture of the region through multiple elements that have been incorporated in the design of the VR centre. The Parampariyam walk, on May 18, will feature a depiction of the traditions and history of the city in the form of maps, coins, motifs and seals, all etched into stone and murals.
At the walk
The Kathai, Kalai, Parampariyam walks — curated by Virtuous Retail and conducted by historian V Sriram — was launched on Sunday. It has been designed to take visitors of all age groups through a narrative of south India’s rich history, showcased at the mall.