Facelift to the Ancient Wood Carvings

Jan 01, 2017 | Vol 09 | Issue 01
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As part of the renovation of the Chuttambalam at Lokanarkavu temple (Vatakara, Kerala), the ancient wood carvings and sculptures are set to get a new look. 

As part of the renovation of the Chuttambalam at Lokanarkavu temple (Vatakara, Kerala), the ancient wood carvings and sculptures are set to get a new look. There are three temples at Lokanarkavu temple complex, one for the Goddess Bhadrakaali, the others for Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The roof of Chuttambalam (the outer complex surround to the sanctum sanctorum) and Balikkalppura attached to it were in a dilapidated condition.

Renovation of Chuttambalam & Balikkalppura

The renovation is mainly for the roof, which has slanted wooden frames and tiled roof, a typical style of Kerala architecture. Chuttambalam is 13m X 18m size and Balikkalpura attached to it is about three square meters.

 They are now being reconstructed in its existing form by Valsan Achari from Kundannur, Ernakulam district.  Valsan Achari, aged 53 yrs is from a traditional carpenters family specialized in temple architecture. He trained under his father Sreedharan Achari, who because of old age issues will not be part of this activity.  The other carpenters assisting him are Vijayan Achari, Sasi Palakkad and Kuttan Ezhupunna.

Wood Carvings and Sculptures

The main entrance to the temple is through the Balikkalppura. The ceiling of the Ballikkalpura has an array of ancient wooden carvings and mural designs.

The sculpture adorning the centre of the ceiling is dedicated to Gods representing Navagraha, the nine planets described in mythology.  There are four wooden panels along the borders, of these two are filled with designs called Pakshimala (birds) and Mrugamala (animals, mainly elephants). The sculptures on the other two panels are called Bhoothamaala, where the figures of Bhootha character as well as many erotic scenes, as a reflection of human life are depicted.  All these were painted originally in natural colors (black, white, red, yellow and green), but now are faded or completely erased. The main wooden beams on the ceiling were painted with the design of Veeraali pattu, a geometrical design with many small colored squares, which have also totally faded.

Of the nine planets of gods, two were stolen many years ago and are now being recreated. The carvings and sculptures are being executed by Vipin Kumar aka Kannan from Panangad in Ernakulam district. The repainting of the sculptures is done by Naveen Kumar Meppayur, a trained and experienced mural artist from Guruvayur Mural painting Institute. Other mural artists associated with this work are Shaiju T K, Rakesh Nileswaram, Kunhan Manasseri, Bipin Lal  Meppayur . They also redrew the Veeraalipattu pattern on the wooden panels. For all these they use acrylic colors, because of budgetary constraints.

Lokanarkavu is a temple complex where the main sanctum sanctorum is dedicated to Mother Goddess Bhadrakali. The walls of this sanctum sanctorum are also filled with murals, but are in bad state of deterioration. These murals as well as the wooden sculptures and carvings at the Shiva temple are said to be more than 300 years old.

According to Mr Venu, executive officer of the temple, the total estimate is about 60 lakhs rupees and the complete works has to be completed before the Maha Sivarathi day celebrations, which falls on 24 Feb 2017.  A public committee headed by M Balachandran as Chairman and V Sukumaran as Convener, is supervising the renovation work.

Some historians have the opinion that this temple was established by the Lohana community from Sind area of North India, who came here centuries before for trading. After many years, the management of the temple reached to the hands of Kadathanadu Raja, the rulers of erstwhile Kadathanadu. Now the management is under Malabar Devaswom Board of Govt of Kerala. The temple hosts many celebrations and festivals every year.

Location / Aceess: Lokanarkavu temple, Vatakara, Kozhikode Dt. (Kerala, India)

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