Odisha: Plain stone slabs at famous Konark temple to be bedecked with carvings

After the consultation meeting, the heritage conservation agency carried out intensive research work into ancient references, drawings, records, architectural remains of the Sun temple for reference.
Konark Temple near Bhubaneswar (File Photo | EPS)
Konark Temple near Bhubaneswar (File Photo | EPS)

BHUBANESWAR : The Sun temple at Konark, Odisha’s only world heritage site, is set for a major facelift. The plain bland stone slabs that had become an integral feature of the temple structure due to the ASI’s conservation works to protect the monument from crumbling will soon be a thing of the past as they are also being embellished with carvings and mouldings.

For the first time since the conservation of the temple began over a century back, a pilot project has been initiated to decorate the plain stones and unify them with the exquisite design and sculptures of the monument. As a beginning, a stretch of the wall on the southern side of the Jagamohan has been replaced with khondalite stone carvings and mouldings to beautify the stone slabs on the monument. Work on the stretch started last year and would be completed within the next fortnight.

Before and after pictures of the vertical
plain stone wall on the southern side of the temple

The project is being carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) within the permitted limits of the revised National Policy for Conservation of Ancient Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Remains-2014.“The vertical stone slabs on the southern side of Jagamohan are being provided with an outline. Geometric and floral patterns are being added along with stone mouldings. The decision on this was approved during the national consultation meet on Konark temple in 2019 which was held in the presence of the then Union Culture minister Prahlad Singh Patel,” said ASI Superintending Archaeologist Arun Malik.

The work has received the approval of DG ASI. Malik said as per the revised conservation policy, while ASI cannot redo the broken sculptures, it can add carvings and mouldings to plain stones. This was not possible prior to 2014 as the old conservation policy that was framed in the 1920s mandated replacing the damaged portions of the monument with only plain slabs.

After the consultation meeting, the heritage conservation agency carried out intensive research work into ancient references, drawings, photographs, records and architectural remains of the Sun temple for reference for the pilot project. Besides, references to the Kalinga style of temple architecture and Shilpa Shastras were taken into consideration for the work.

ASI used its traditional stone artisans who have been working on Jagannath temple in Puri, Raja Rani temple and Khandagiri Udayagiri caves in Bhubaneswar and the khondalite stones were procured from Tapang for the work. After the pilot project is completed, the work will be slowly extended to other parts of the monument.

“ASI was considering decorating the vertical stone slabs with carvings after allegations were made from all sections that it was replacing carved stones with plain ones in 2018,” said Malik. Around 40 per cent of the northern and southern walls of the Jagamohan have been fixed with plain stones. “This was done by the Britishers in the pre-Independence era for structural stability of the ancient monument. In fact, this is why the structure is intact today. Besides, the platform on which Jagamohan stands was partly damaged. In the 90s, ASI began strengthening the platform and fixed plain stones in the platform area where stone sculptures were missing or damaged. Similar measures were taken subsequently for the Nata Mandap of the temple,” he added.

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