Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Mural Heritage of Calicut

The Padinhare Kovilakam Palace Complex of Mankave is home to some rare murals. While the complex itself is some 250 years old, the few surviving murals clearly belong to the mature phase in the evolution of Medieval Kerala mural tradition that began in 8th CAD and flourished till late 19 th CAD.
Featured below is‘Dakshinamurthi’ mural from the first floor of Vaikena Maaliga (The Study Hall) . 
Dakshinamurthi is a form of Siva facing south (Dakshina) and is depicted as teacher of Yoga, gnosis, music and giving exposition to the sciences .

(A Kinnera with a lute and lion-tailed monkeys and birds of paradise in an arboreal concert. The sweet music from the Kinnera’s lute and the appreciating sounds of the monkeys and the birds wafts softly as Siva holds forth to the sages around him.)

While the bottom half of this 80 sq foot exquisite mural has fallen prey to vagaries of time and defacement obscuring the features of main characters, the top portion comprising of the canopy of the tree under which Siva is seated and all its arboreal residents is still well preserved. The clarity and detail in depicting the mythical figures neatly
camouflaged amidst the foliage, is truly astounding. The well preserved and vibrant natural colours and pigments indicate that materials like powdered pearls and lapis lazuli, among others were used. The immaculate clarity and detail in capturing the nature’s bounty is unparalleled in mural history of Kerala..

Some historians attribute the decline of patronage to mural painting in Kerala to the Mysore Invasions (1766-1782), the ascent of the British and importantly, the emergence of Raja Ravi Varma as the leading exponent of Western mode of painting. But the recent trend of plastering wall spaces in temples with brass and copper plates, by rich and mindless devotees, erasing old murals is a great cause for alarm.
The ‘Dakshinamurthi’ mural of Mankave deserves to be restored and preserved. and its unique style and tradition of depicting nature ,flora and fauna, needs to be studied and documented.
-Sasi Edavarad, Mural artist , Calicut.

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