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Vol. XXXIII No. 8, August 1-15, 2023

Heritage Watch: When Heritage has to be distanced

Among the treasures of Mamallapuram, the bas relief of Krishna lifting the Govardhana mountain is truly a gem. The detailing is of the highest order, and you can imagine the crowds that must have sheltered from the rain and marvelled at the miracle. Dating to the 7th century, it is unique in that it has a pavilion fronting it, which dates to the 16th century. The Vijayanagar rulers probably felt that the bas relief required protection from the elements. But they evidently did not feel that this work of art needed protection from humans.

For centuries it was possible to touch the sculptures and that increasingly became a problem. Our ‘heritage lovers’ did not treat this freedom with respect and did what they could to leave behind their impress on age-old carvings.

The Archaeological Survey has in recent times added a very aesthetic palisade that allows visitors to see the bas relief but not touch it. This is a good solution, and we hope people honour it by not trying to jump over.


Detail of the Krishna Mandapam carving.


Our OLD shows the mandapam as it was in the 19th century, when photographed by Alexander Rea. The NEW is of the place at present, complete with the barricade erected by the ASI. This is one heritage precinct that has certainly improved with time. The other picture is a view of the frieze itself.

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