Documentation of endangered temple art of Tamil Nadu
Funding Agency(ies):
Arcadia, administered by British Library, UK
Principal Investigator(s):
Dr. Murugesan N.
Start Date : 
August 2014
Duration : 
1 year
Axis 4. of the Indology Department /
The IFP has wide experience of documenting south Indian temples and their murals since 1956 and its archives are useful for individuals to carry out research, temple and government authorities to rebuild temples, and serves as a resource centre to document statues now stolen. A proper and systematic digital documentation and preserving them is needed to serve as a reserve.

In recent times, sand-blasting in temples has become a regular practice, damaging sculptures, paintings and inscriptions. In the Varadarajaswamy temple at Kanchipuram, a Nayaka period mandapam with pillars filled with carvings of dancers, musicians, floral motifs and inscriptions was pulled down and haphazardly rebuilt, and hundreds of the Vijayanagara period murals are in ruins. In the name of renovation, murals at the Tiruvellarai temple, depicting episodes from the ‘Ramayana,' are no longer there. Paintings of the Nayak period, which portrayed the life of the Vaishnavite saint, Nammazhwar, at the temple in Tirukkurugur, near Adichanallur, Tirunelveli are now vanished.

The above examples clearly show the danger of vandalism for this valuable temple art. This pilot project is important for an area where little work has been done to date. Digitising these murals at the earliest opportunity will enable art historians and others to carry out research and for the general public to relish their heritage.

  • To digitise the paintings / murals that is available in the selected 5 sites
  • To prepare a detailed data base with description for the documented images
  • To prepare a final report to submit to EAP

Materials and methods:

This pilot project will digitise exquisite murals in vulnerable condition, in four temples and one rock art site: Madurai Meenakshi temple; Kallalagar temple, Alagarkovil; Siva temple Tittakudi; Vishnu temple, Adiyamankottai; and Jain cave of Tirumalai by using digital camera and other associated accessories. A detailed database will be prepared with descriptions for the documented images. The project will also compile a detailed list of other temples where such murals are available, with their conditions and the permissions needed to do the digitisation. This will be used as the framework for a future major project. This work will pave the way for future generations to understand historically important temple art and provide opportunities for research.

External team members:
  • Dr. V. Vedachalam
  • Dr. G.Sethuraman
  • S. Venkatarajan
Main outputs:
- Data base and collection

Staff ( IFP & External )

RAMESHKUMAR K., Head - Photo Archives