KOCHI: As an artist who has been specialising in mural painting for the past 20 years, Biju Azhikode’s work portrays the stories of gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology. The murals adorning the walls of the Navarathri mandapam at Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram, were created by Biju. Sri Rama pattabhishekam, Shiva Parvathi and goddess Shakti were some of the tableaus painted by the artist on the 100 sq km area inside the mandapam. Biju’s interest in murals started after he secured a three-year scholarship from National Lalit Kala Akademi in 2003. “The scholarship enabled me to visit many temples and study murals painted on the walls. I also got the opportunity to meet artists from across the country,” says Biju.
Biju is also among the few artists from Kerala who uses natural colours to create murals. Yellow is taken from stones near Sri Mookambika temple, red from Thottapadi area in Thrissur, blue was taken from Neelambari plant while green is created by mixing Iravi tree’s sap with the blue of Neelambari. The colour black which is used to outline the figures is obtained from the ashes procured from burning clay in a candle flame. According to Biju, many mural artists refuse to use natural colours for it proves expensive and involves a lengthy process. Murals created with natural hues cost twice the amount of acrylic ones.
Creating a mural artwork is an arduous task that requires time and concentration.
Biju’s mural of Lord Krishna on display at the art museum at south zone cultural centre, Thanjavur took him two months to complete. Traditionally, murals are painted directly on walls and then polished with lime (kummayam) and river sand (aatu manal). After a week, the surface is plastered using river sand, lime, cloth pieces ground together. The last stage involves whitewashing the area with tender coconut and quicklime (chunnambu). The entire process takes about two to three weeks. “The process ensures that the colours do not fade away and the painting lasts for many years,” Biju adds.
Biju has also experimented with episodes that were not based on Hindu mythology. Apart from doing murals on walls, Biju has so far paited on terracotta pots, sarees, bamboo sticks and table lamps. Biju is the son of mural artists G Azhikode and K Shyamalakumari.