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The Devasiriya Mandapam at Sri Thyagaraja Swamy temple in Tiruvarur, that houses more than 50 panels of 17th century paintings, restored over a period of three years, was thrown open to public on Wednesday.

A huge volume of the photographs of the murals by noted photographer V K Rajamani with annotations by professor David Shulman, a multi-linguist and professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was released during a function at the temple. The murals were restored by a team of experts from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) with financial assistance of Rs 60 lakh from Prakriti Foundation. The murals tell the story of how the image of Lord Tyagarajaswami was brought to Tiruvarur by a monkey-faced Chola king, Muchukunda. Due to decades of neglect and damage from water leakage, smoke, fungus, insects, dust, bird nesting, and other factors, nearly half of the panels had been severely damaged, and the other half were in acute danger of similar deterioration.

Timely effort by Prakriti Foundation and INTACH prevented total deterioration of the 300-year-old paintings. David Shulman told the gathering that the restoration of the murals was a miracle of sorts.

Fondly recollecting his association with Thayagaraja Swamy Temple since 1970 when he first visited it, Shulman said it must be God's destiny that the murals be restored for posterity. Minor works still need to be carried out.

The significance of the murals has been painstakingly documented in the book through the photographs and scholarly notes by Shulman. The book also contains a detailed description by Madhu Rani who led the INTACH team, of the entire process of conservation of the paintings.


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