CHENNAI: An eleven-pillared strangers’ mantapa built about 500 years ago received a new lease of life as the heritage structure was ‘transplanted’ to a nearby location at Madhavaram Milk Colony in Chennai without losing the sheen.
Negligence and ignorance of the local residents over the heritage and cultural importance led to damage of the structure which also bore the brunt of vibration caused by heavy vehicles on the nearby road.
Remaining in a dilapidated state with vegetation growing all around the structure that had been crying for attention for long, the mantapa belonging to the Nayak period got the attention of the Madhavaram zonal officer of Greater Chennai Corporation recently resulting in its facelift.
A 10-member team of labourers under the supervision of R Mani, retired Conservation Assistant of Archaeological Survey of India, was pressed into action to carry out transplantation work.
After strenuous labour that lasted for about six months, the heritage structure was restored to its old glory at a site close to the original one.
“Since the structure was in a dilapidated condition and gone out of plumb line, it was not possible to retain the existing structure to conserve in situ and hence it was proposed to completely remove and reconstruct it using the same materials,” Mani told Express.
Explaining the process of dismantling the original structure without causing any damage to texture, he stated that a systematic documentation by way of the detailed drawings and photographs before conservation proved key to the transplantation project.
The foundation at the new site was laid with plain cement concrete for a thickness of 0.30 meter over which the footings with random rubble masonry in cement mortar was constructed by using the laterite stone dislodged from the original site.
Mani, an expert in conservation of heritage structures, said that the superstructure was restored, after stones were raised in their respective original places and the stone joints were fixed using binding materials like combination mortar for inner core.
“As per the design and dimensions of the original mantapa, the stone members, base stones, pillars, pillar capital, beams, ceiling slabs and coping stones were fixed during reconstruction period,” he said.
The mantapa, whose pillars have carved figures of Vinayaga, Muruga, Anjaneya and snakes, constructed during 15th-16th century, has regained its lost glory at a cost of `25 lakh. Similar transplantation of heritage structure has been carried out in two other places- Mettur Dam in Salem district and Sri Sailam at Cuddappah in Andra Pradesh- in the recent years.