Tribute to the sage in granite
Dedicated sculptors, guided by Ganapathi Sthapati, are working to raise a manimantapam for Paramacharya.
PHOTO: A. MURALIDHARAN
MONUMENT: An expression of adoration.
A visit, after several months, to the village of Orirukkai, five km from the temple town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu raises the spirits. In this lovely spot on the banks of the Palar, an ambitious project is under way. And one is impressed by the progress that has taken place at the site of the Satabdhi Manimantapam being built in tribute to Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati of the Kanchi Kamkoti Peetam by the Sri Sri Sri Mahalakshmi Mathrubhutheswarar Trust.
The Chennai-based trust is completely dedicated to the work and hopes to realise its goal by 2007 a memorial to the centenarian sage built wholly of granite with the grand dimensions and architectural details of the ancient temples. The foundation was laid in 1997 in the presence of the late M. S. Subbulakshmi and T. Sadasivam who were great devotees of the Paramacharya, an embodiment of learning and compassion who was committed to religious harmony. He reached out to all irrespective of cast and creed. M.S. and Sadasivam contributed to the project though funds generated from concerts and royalties from the sale of CDs.
Huge slabs of granite lie scattered on the 7.5 acres of land. Elegant horses straining to throw off the restraint imposed by their riders, rotund elephants chewing at their sugarcane and lions with endearing faces seem to leap out of the confining limits of stone. Scores of sculptors oblivious to the heat have their eyes trained on their task. Directing them is a tall white clad figure, S. M. Ganapathi Sthapati. Steeped in the Shilpa Shastras, he is giving shape to the vision of the trustees and of the late `Pradosham' Venkatarama Iyer. A railway employee, Venkatarama Iyer who adored the sage, would have his darshan during every Pradosham for many years. It was he who thought of a memorial and chose this spot.
The Manimantapam consists of four sections Paduka mantapam, Prakara mantapam, Praja mantapam and the Maha mantapam. Incidents from the life of the Paramacharya will be portrayed in the Maha mantapam.
Panels depicting the Adi Guru parampara and Dwadasha lingams are seen at the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum. Forty per cent of the work of the garbagriham is ready.
The Vimanam crowning it will be decorated with rows of rudraksha beads. And within the sacred space below will be placed the image of the sage, his gold plated padukas (sandals) and the spatika lingam. Several sections of the structure have already been fashioned by the sthapati's son, Sankaran sthapati, at his workshop in Bangalore and will soon be transported here.
Sculpture on panels
A panel depicts Lord Nataraja's joyous dance during Pradosham watched by Periyaval. Another symbolises Kailasa though the image of Lord Dakshinamoorthy, Kaladi through Adi Sankara and Kamakoti through the Paramacharya. For Ganapati Sthapati this is a labour of love and devotion. He has included the rare features of temple archaeology combining the distinct features of the Pallava, Chola and Pandya periods as an offering to the Periyaval who had an in depth knowledge of the Shilpa Shastras. According to trustees K. R. Athmanathan and K. Vedamurthy ``The wonderful feature of the work is that it was never halted owing to lack of funds. His devotees are everywhere and they care from those who contribute Rs.100 to those who are able to give much more.
The latest surge was a sum of Rs. 2.5 crores though an NRI in the U.S. The estimate is Rs.12 crores. We still need Rs. 6 .5 crores, Rs. 2.5 crores urgently." Address and web site: SSSMM Trust: Sivam-Subham, New no.12, First Main Road, Kotturpuram, Chennai-600085.Ph: 91-044-24474113. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.manimantapam.org
Contributions in US dollars is exempt from tax if it is sent though Kanchi Kamakoti Seva Foundation.
Cheques payable to KKSF mentioning SSSMM Trust/Manimantapam in the cheque memo. Mail address: Prof. D. Sundararaman, 3206 Cherry Mill Drive, Adelphi MD 20783, USA Tel:301-937-3083 . Fax:(703)803-9389.
History comes alive
PHOTO: V. GANESAN
RUDRA THANDAVAM: One of the exquisite panels. PHOTO: V. GANESAN
The Manimantapam is unique for the experience it offers the visitor. Apart from the spiritual aspect, here is a work in progress that is educative as well, especially for lovers of art and history and for the young to learn about their heritage. Watching the memorial take shape is like being conveyed back in time. All the work.at the Manimantapam is done manually, as in the past. Chisels and other tools are being continually fashioned at the work spot. So it must have been when the mighty structures of worship arose across the length and breadth of the Tamil country centuries ago. So would the rocks have been located, tested for purity and size and then transported from diverse places to the destination. So must the sculptors have come from various parts, lived in sheds and toiled with eagle-eyed concentration to turn gray rock into exquisite objects of beauty and worship.
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