Conservation of wall paintings at “Shakyamuni” temple Mangyu, Ladakh, J&K

Art & Material Heritage Division started conservation campaign 2012 for the commencement of the conservation of wall paintings of “Shakyamuni” temple. Decision of starting the work with “Shakyamuni” temple was taken after a meeting held on 26 April and 25 July 2012. Intach authorities from Delhi and Leh chapter, wall painting conservator, Courtauld’s scholars, secretary Likir monastery, members of Mangyu village committee and caretaker monk of the Mangyu monastery were present in the meeting.
The shrine of Sakyamuni is very rich in decorative elements and presents a beautiful example of incorporation of Kashmiri and Tibetan craftsmanship. Embossing of figures to highlight the area, relief work on the eyes of deities, embossed asterisk inside the Mandalas and layer by layer painting style are of high quality. Borders of Mandalas are incised in perfect circle. Incising can also be seen on the face’s outline of many Buddhas. Many Hindu deities like Varuna, Indra, Shiva as Mahakala, Ganesha and celestial deities encircles with imaginary figures of animals are seen in the Avlokiteshwara temple. Painting of two Manjushree’s on the south west wall are beautiful examples of artistic perfectness.
Mangyu is one of the picturesque villages in western part of Ladakh; it can be accessed by road and is about 70-75 kilometers from the Leh city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Mangyu Gompa is situated at a height of about 3500 meters. This region experiences extreme environmental changes in a year. Hence to monitor these variations, data logger was installed from August 2012 to June 2013.
After documentation the initial stage of conservation included careful removal of previous repairs which were unscientifically done. Fragile areas, such as missing portions and loosely bound portions of the wall, experienced the problem of separation or detachment from the wall itself. Hence to protect them from loss, facing or temporary consolidation was given. Grouting was also done to provide strength to the hollow areas behind the original plaster layer. Filling of areas with major losses and cracks were done using suitable material to provide structural strength to nearby areas with losses and also to preserve the aesthetic value of the wall paintings. Cleaning of the wall paintings was done to remove unwanted elements such as dust, dirt and soot deposits over the painting.