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Restoration of Gopalakrishna Temple under way

By Our Staff Correspondent

MYSORE, FEB. 11. The restoration of the historic Gopalakrishna Temple — which was dismantled and relocated from its original site in the backwaters of the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) — is under way and the foundation for the sanctum sanctorum is being laid.

Said to have been constructed 900 years ago, the temple (also called Venugopalswamy temple) was marked for submersion when the KRS project was taken up. The temple complex was submerged in the Thirties. However, the villagers at that time shifted the main deity and consecrated it near Hosakannambadi but the temple complex could not be saved. Ever since, the temple would surface only if there was a decline in the water level of the dam and thousands of people would flock to the place to get a glimpse of it.

Last year, the Khoday Foundation sought permission from the Government to relocate and restore the ancient temple, and work on the Rs. 2.5-crore project is under way. However, this is only an estimate and the cost might escalate further.

The new site for the temple is located about one km. away and to the north of the original site. When restored, water will lap the outer walls of the temple if the water level touches 124.80 feet, the maximum capacity of the dam.

The villagers of Hosakannambadi gave nearly 4.5 acres of land for the relocation and reconstruction of the temple. The sanctum sanctorum where the main deity will be installed and for which the foundation stone is being laid measures 45 ft. x 90 ft.

Once the work on the sanctum sanctorum is completed, the Khoday Foundation will launch the work on the parikrama and the outer walls of the temple complex will be taken up.

Expert sculptors from Tamil Nadu, who visited the site at the time of dismantling of the structure, will commence work once the foundation is ready. The restoration of slabs will begin in a few months from now.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mahesh of the Khoday Foundation told The Hindu that the replica would match the original temple in all its aspects. The in-house architects of the group had shot the original temple on video, taken over 16,000 photographs, and had marked each and every slab used in the construction of the original temple. Expertise and guidance from the Archaeological Survey of India would be taken if necessary, said Mr. Mahesh.

Although restoration of the temple has commenced, it is difficult to say as to when the complex will be reassembled. The Gopalakrishna temple in its original layout encompassed a massive complex and the structure measured about 100 yards by 60 yards. The temple displayed Dravidian and Chalukyan style of architecture and art historians considered it to have significant architectural merit.

The complex was a symmetrical building enclosed by two "prakaras". The outer gate or the Mahadwara had verandas on both sides and was flanked by Yagasala and kitchen. This was enclosed by the second Mahadwara, which led to the inner enclosure and was akin to the Somnathpur temple.

The original temple had 46 shrines — 17 on the southern side, 12 on the west and 17 on the north on the inner prakara which was embellished with 24 murtis and 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu besides the figures of Brahma, Saraswathi, Harihara, Haygriva, and Jalasayana.

The sanctum sanctorum, which is being replicated, was situated in the middle of the courtyard and consisted of navaranga or middle hall and mukhya mantapa or front hall. The original temple had a beautifully sculpted figure of Goplakrishna, who was represented as standing under a Honne tree accompanied by other cowherds and gopikas.

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