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Ancient murals brought back to life



Celestial dance of Parvati and Siva (below) captured in vivid detail. — Pics by R. Shivaji Rao.

THE MURAL paintings dating back to the period of the Maratha King Serfoji II (1788-1832) which was in a dilapidated state at the Thanjavur Ellaiamman temple were recently restored, thanks to the efforts taken by S. Babaji Rajah Bhonsle Chattrapathy, senior prince of Thanjavur and Hereditary trustee of Palace Devasthanam.

The rare paintings included that of Rudra Thandavam by Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi, Yasodha Krishna, Mahishasuramardhini, etc. Bhonsle, the senior prince, wrote to National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property, Lucknow detailing that the paintings were in bad shape. The laboratory deputed experts from Mysore and the paintings were restored. Ellaiamman temple is one among the 88 temples of Thanjavur Palace Devasthanam. The deity is worshipped by the Marathas.


Legend has it that sage Jamadhagni's wife fell in love with a Gandharva moving across the sky when she saw his reflection in the water while taking bath in a pond. When the sage learnt about this, he sent his son Parasuram to behead his wife.

Parasuram obeyed his father's orders and beheaded his mother. But he felt guilty and wanted to atone for his sin. He also wanted his mother back. Jamadhagni promised to bring her back to life by chanting certain mantras if Parasuram put her head and body together.



Beautifully restored... a scene from Meenakshi Kalyanam.

A dhobi woman's body which was beheaded by her husband was also lying there and Parasuram put his mother's head on the body of the other woman. As this happened near the Maratha border, she was called Ellaiamman. The Maratha kings started worshiping her as a deity.

At the temple, one can see the head of a woman in stone, in front of a Goddess's idol. Even today, the descendants of Maratha kings like Bhonsle worship at the Ellaiamman temple.

G. SRINIVASAN

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