These absolutely beautiful frescos are from a Devi temple more than a quarter of a millennium old in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. The name of the site is, aptly enough, Devi Kothi – and the presiding form of the Goddess is Chamunda.
Depicted, is the great battle of the Goddess against a demon army. An artistic endeavour which William Dalrymple, whose twitter-feed I got these off, described as “the Sistine Chapel of Pahari art”.
Unfortunately, they were recently damaged by a renovation effort by the local Mandir’s committee. Perhaps understandably, they had sought to ‘improve’ the structure using cement – which ran into heritage protections, and therefore made the work illegal. The work has now been stopped – although not afore the damage to the paintings had already occurred 😦
It is one of those things which frequently plays upon my mind when it comes to the Hindusphere. In the West, many elements of religious heritage – they are museum-pieces. And that brings with it the greater opportunities to protect them from damage and the ravages of time or incautious use. Yet in India, it is Living Religion. And that means that these archaic or indeed incredibly ancient sites are still in active, daily use. And that brings with it a different and complicated set of pressures likewise.
How to reconcile the two is a complex undertaking. Although I did note somebody replying to the circumstance on twitter, who suggested: “Maybe time to restore…I’m sure they can be painted back…not at all a tall order in today’s time and age with so much technology at our Beck n call…time to fight back”
I am not sure that it is so easy; and it is rare that one encounters beauty such as this in the modern age – but an admirable sentiment, all the same.
The site in context:
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