Conservation of wall paintings in Lama Lha-khang (Lama temple), Chemday Monastery, Ladakh
The ICI undertook conservation of wall paintings housed in the Lama Lha-khang of the Chemday monastery in 2013. The walls of the temple are a treasure house of 17th Cent. Tibetan style wall paintings executed on earthen plaster support using bright natural pigments. The beauty of the wall paintings however was hidden under a thick veil of dust, dirt, soot, grease and oil. There were also mud plaster drips harming the artwork. The plaster layer supporting the paintings had become weak and was lost in many areas. The paint layer had also pulverized in some areas due to previous unscientific interventions.
Detailed documentation of the condition of the walls was undertaken in 2014-15. Emergency stabilization of the fragile areas, detaching and loosely bound portions of the wall as well as areas where the paint layer was flaking, was also undertaken to prevent further loss.
During June – August 2015, the previous unscientific interventions and fillings were carefully removed. Before undertaking conservation work, scientific testing or trials of conservation materials and application methods were undertaken for determining appropriate conservation treatments. Test patches were made for determining levels of cleaning. Locally available clay samples and fillers were tested to make the aggregates for filling and grouting. Grouting was done to provide strength to the hollow areas behind the original plaster layer using the mixtures prepared after proper testing. Some areas on the wall had developed uneven bulges. These were flattened and consolidated with mud plaster. The final filling was burnished properly to make it fine, even and smooth. The areas where the paint layer was powdery and flaking as well as the plaster was separating were consolidated to provide strength.
Cleaning of the surface for the removal of various accretions was the most important aspect of conservation treatment. Cleaning of the wall painting started after the complete stabilization of wall painting layers. Cleaning was done using both mechanical and solvent cleaning methods. Mechanical cleaning was done using Wishab dry cleaning sponges. Cleaning was also done using different solvents depending on the type of accretions.
Conservation of a small Temple, Nirmand, Himachal Pradesh
According to mythology, Nirmand derives its name from the word ‘Nir-mund’ meaning ‘without head’. It is believed that, this was the land where Goddess Shakti’s head fell when Lord Shiva carried her body and went around the earth in remorse. Nirmand is considered to be a sacrosanct place where Lord Parshuram is believed to have settled the Brahmins in a bid to eliminate the Kshatriyas, members of the warrior caste, from the face of the Earth. Nirmand’s principal shrine is the Parshuram temple complex, which is built in the traditional Pahari style with gabled slate roof and extensive use of wood and stone. There is a small temple adjacent to the main Parsuramtemple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is approximately 10 feet high and has beautifully carved stone slabs and wooden beam.
INTACH Conservation Institutes undertook the conservation of this temple as a showcase project for the community. The project started in November 2015 and was completed in Feb 2016.
The ornamental elements on the temple structure (including Shikhara) as well as the idols within the temple had a very thick and stubborn deposition of dust, dirt, oil, algal growth and soot. There were multiple layers of roli (Mercuric sulfide) applied obliterating the details. The stone slabs on the roof were dislocated and broken at some places. The wooden pillars were damaged with cracks, loosened joints & dislocation and while carvings were also lost at some places. Wooden parts of the temple were also covered with roli. Many stone slabs/slates of the temple were dislocated and shape of the upper part was tilted. Joints of the stone slabs were opened at many places andsteps of the temple were completely damaged with only some pieces of stone left.
The conservation work involved cleaning of the structure as well as the idols. The stones in the structure were re-set and those missing were replaced with similar new ones. The joints were filled with compatible material. The work on the wooden pillars involved cleaning, consolidation and replacement of highly damaged ones.
Conservation of wall paintings, Shri. Dei JiSahibaMandir Complex, Paonta Sahib, Himachal Pradesh
Paonta Saheb town (Sirmore District, Himachal Pradesh) is a sacred place for the Sikh community as it is the place where Guru Govind Singh stayed and the PaontaSahebGurudwara commemorates his stay. The Shri Dei JiSahibaMandir (also known as Maharaja Ram Chandra Temple) in paontaSaheb (dated 1889) was constructed by RaniSahiba of Kangra, DeijiSahibaSirmori, in memory of her deceased husband Raja PratapChandBahadur of Sirmore. The government took over the complex in 1990 and it is now maintained by the Temple Trust.The temple complex, located on the banks of River Yamuna, consists of the main temple dedicated to Lord Ram Chandra, others dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Hanuman, Samadhi structure as well as upon direction of Hon’ble High Court of H.P. the INTACH HP Chapter Convenor of Kangra approached ICI for the conservation of the wall paintings adorning the walls of the main temple and the Shiva Temple.
Within the Rama Temple, the wall behind the main idols has paintings depicting Hindu deities. The other walls are re-plastered with cement. In the Shiva temple there are eight painted sections.
The wall paintings of the temple were covered with a layer of cement plaster in several areas. There were losses in the paint layer as well as the lime plaster support. Paint layer was powdery and flaking in several areas along with depositions of soot and dust. The conservation involved careful removal of the cement plaster layer deposited on the wall paintings and the cleaning. Consolidation of paint layer was undertaken to arrest the flaking.