PANCHKULA: The white-washing of over-a-century-and-a-half-old frescos at the Mansa Devi Temple is not only against rules of restoration of old and rare works of art but would also damage these rare paintings on the walls of the shrine, feels Indian National Trust of Art, Culture and Heritage (INTACH).
The temple, built by the royal family of Patiala, is under the Haryana archaeology department, while Haryana Tourism Corporation is the nodal agency responsible for execution of the ongoing conservation work. The work on frescos inside the temple started around 1840 under the patronage of Maharaja Gopal Singh of Manimajra and Maharaja Karam Singh of Patiala.
While TOI has photographs (taken on January 10) showing layers of white wash applied on the frescos, a statement of Haryana's directorate of information and public relations said that 'no white wash is being done on the frescos'.
"As observed in photographs, the frescos have been whitewashed. The restoration procedure followed is not in accordance with norms," said INTACH principal director Nilabh Sinha.
"The first step is scientific documentation in which the material that has to be restored is examined in the laboratory to understand what kind of coating exists. The conservation assessment report is then drafted, which states problems that can be faced while restoration, the kinds of paints to be used and the remedial measures that have to be taken before the conservation work," said Sinha.
"The conservation process then begins, in which the damaged part is covered using adhesives in order to provide a protective layer. After chemical treatment and precautionary measures, touching with irreversible paints or powdered pigments is done to restore the works," he added.
Sinha feels the layer of whitewash will affect the frescos. "The photos show that whitewashing was done. Any coating of whitewash or lose plaster leads to further deterioration of the frescoes. Whitewash has calcium hydroxide in it and when it reacts with carbon dioxide in the air, it forms a layer of calcium carbonate which destroys thefrescos," Sinha said.
"The frescoes are conserved and preserved after following a scientific conservation methodology as prescribed by UNESCO and ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), which is also followed by Archeological Survey of India," said a statement by the directorate of information and public relations, Haryana government.
When TOI contacted Haryana minister for archaeology and museums, Geeta Bhukkal, she asked for a written questionnaire. However, TOI did not get any reply from her till 11pm on Friday to an email sent to her earlier in the day.
Ridiculous to wipe out frescos, says expert
"It is ridiculous to wipe out the frescos." This is what Gurmeet Rai, director of Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative in India and managing trustee of Punjab Heritage Preservation Trust, has to say about the white-washing of over-a-century-and-a-half-old frescos at the Mansa Devi Temple here.
Gurmeet Rai, who has been involved with conservation work at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, was reacting to the news about the so-called restoration work being carried out by Haryana government at the Mansa Devi temple.
She said, "I feel it is just being insensitive and shows the high-handedness on the part of the temple authorities .
Hina Rohtaki, TNN Jan 16, 2012.