MADURAI: A major effort is under way to restore the centuries-old pillars of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple to their original state.
Under a restoration process using non-toxic chemicals, technicians have begun to remove multiple coats of limestone, paint and other artificial substances that have accumulated on the pillars.
Initially, 350 pillars would be covered in three months at an estimated cost of Rs. 5 lakh, K. Rajanayagam, Executive Officer, said . Painting done decades ago has resulted in accumulated coatings over the original pillars.
“In those days, people wanted the temple to be colourful during big events and painted them,” he said. Thankfully, there is more awareness on the need to preserve the original beauty of granite pillars. The natural beauty of the sculptures should be there for all to see and the present exercise would ensure that, he said.
The restoration is undertaken by a firm headed by V.R. Gunasekaran, a heritage conservator trained by the National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property, Lucknow.
The chemicals being used, he said, would not have any adverse effect on the original structure. An appropriate mix of liquefied ammonia, non-ionic detergent and other stone-friendly materials is initially applied and then washed off by spraying plain water. The process is repeated till all additional layers are removed. A preservative coating is applied on the pillars.
It would protect the heritage structures from environmental pollution and decay, which could be caused by application of oil. The application of a preservative coating had been proposed to the temple authorities, he said.
Highlighting the difference between sand-blasting, a process prohibited in 2000, and chemical process, he said that while the former almost altered the original structure, the latter went to extreme lengths to avoid damage.
The water pressure to be used is determined after ascertaining the strength of each pillar.