By Savitha Hira
Photography: Courtesy Kimaya Architects
The 2014 UNESCO Asia-Pacific ‘Award for Merit’ in Cultural Heritage Conservation goes to the restoration of Shri Sakhargad Niwasini Devi temple complex in Satara by Architects Anjali and Kiran Kalamdani of Kimaya Architects, Pune…
Built in the 18th century, the Yamai or Sakhargad Niwasini temple complex, with its different structures and unique, extensive fortifications, is full of surprises in terms of fine craftsmanship, unique and popular folk art, graceful fusion of Yadava Period and Bahamani styles of architecture - a fine example of Kinhai village in Satara district of Maharashtra, which also displays a surprisingly accomplished level of craftsmanship in its brick, stone, clay, tile and wood buildings as well as wadas (traditional houses) and temples as examples of local architecture.
Venerated for her miraculous powers by the locals of the Kinhai village, the Goddess Yamai Devi has been worshipped for over two-and-a-half centuries and the conservation and restoration of her temple addresses its extensive historic and religious associations with the people of the region, along with its presence as an architectural landmark.
As with any heritage property (although, surprisingly this site does not come under the heritage umbrella), here also, weathering, vandalism, structural deterioration and consequent seepage, deep-rooted vegetative growth, and overall extensive neglect were the main areas of the restoration and conservation exercise.
|Before Shikhar Restoration After|
|Before Restoration of S. W. Gateway After|
Key conservation interventions addressed have therefore been to:
a) the Shikhar or tower, where corrosion of all pinnacles and their supporting fixtures of the spire; and over 144 iconographic images, floral bands and cornices had been subjected to weathering conditions with harsh winds and lashing rains. After removal of cracked and weathered parts, the older fabric was consolidated in similar material (1:3 lime sand mortar using hydraulic lime as in the traditional manner). The external finish of the lime stucco had integral pigments with only finer details (eyes, fabric designs etc) painted over, which were restored to their original format. In few instances, original finishes with patterns and motifs were retained and consolidated.
b) Partial replacement work to the Gabhara (Inner Sanctum) and the Sabha Mandapa (Assembly Pavilion) entailed careful removal of oil paint used over the original stonework and woodwork without damaging the surfaces. Many structural defects like leakage, cracking in the stonework and wood work were observed after removal of paint and were rectified with minimal intervention.
c) Roof-work has involved removing layers of cement based waterproofing and replacing it with lime based methods. In the case of tiled roofs, a layer of aluminum sheets was introduced to ensure no damage by the occasional rains that crept through the gaps in the clay tiles.
Overall, the project, which covers about 1500 sq. m. has taken about four-and-a-half years to reach its completion stage. Kiran Kalamdani and Anjali Kalamdani, partners at Kimaya Architects assisted by an able team have ensured the conservation process in accordance with self-bound regulations like use of local materials (sourced within a radius of 100 - 300 kms) and traditional technology, conservation of traditional skills and knowledge systems, minimal and reversible interventions, minimal loss of fabric and retention of visual identity.
The temple is clearly built in different stages thus inheriting the architectural styles of each period in which it was built. The Gabhara (Inner Sanctum) was built in the Yadava style with monolithic stone work, the Shikhar - in the Early Maratha style and the Mandapa (Assembly Pavilion) in the Late Peshwa style. As seen in the plastering of the Shikhar, the pigment used (Haldi-kumkum/ Red-Yellow Ochre combination) formed an integral part of the lime plastering. A similar technology was adopted in the painting works for the temple, conserving traditional skills and knowledge systems.
Despite being subjected to harsh climatic conditions, this temple still stands in a good condition - a testimony to the advanced structural systems used in building the complex.