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ANCIENT TEMPLE CONVERSATION

— JASMEEN DUGAL

Udaipur is one of the world's most important cultural landscapes and Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, the 76TH Custodian of House Of Mewar follows a personal commitment to preserve it as Living Heritage. His vision is being fulfilled through a set of initiatives — one of them being the conservation, restoration and development of ancient temples that showcase tales of glory, of craftsmen, of pride and piety.

 

Embarking on a temple trail to perceive the historical aspects of each temple and its conservation work — an integral part of the fourth World Living Heritage Festival — I could perceive and appreciate Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar's vision for a community-led inclusive approach towards heritage temples. Before I go further, I'd like to explain that 'Living Heritage' is characterised by 'continuity' and approaches heritage as 'alive'; hence the enormity of ongoing conservation and maintenance which makes historically important temples accessible to the devout, the scholar and the tourist — an excellent example of cultural preservation and sustainable tourism development of the region. All ancient temples are open to the public; prayers are offered and ceremonies are performed. And, while a majority of religious cultures worldwide has lost strength due to modernisation, the cultural heritage of Mewar is thriving. Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar's dedication to living heritage is what has kept their customs alive to this day. Perhaps, one of the finest examples of Living Heritage.

 

My sunrise trail led me to Jagdish Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was constructed in either M?ha M?ru or M?ru Gurjara architectural style in 1651 by Maharana Jagat Singh. His voice full of pride, our guide narrated the history of the temple and pointed out its special features. The three-storied temple has beautifully carved pillars and artistic ceiling. The pyramidal spire — with sculptures of dancers, elephants, horsemen and musicians — dominates the skyline. As I approached the temple, I was welcomed by stone elephants at the entrance. Here, I found a stone slab with inscriptions referencing Maharaja Jagat Singh. I took a flight of marble steps and here, I discovered a brass statue of Garuda, half-man and half-eagle, which appeared to be guarding the shrine. The temple sanctum has an idol of the deity Lord Jagannath, in local parlance of God Vishnu or God Krishna, carved out of a single black stone, resplendent with four arms, flowers and finery.[5] Four smaller shrines, dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Surya, Goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva form a circle around the main shrine, housing the idol of Lord Vishnu. Awed by its beauty, I offered my prayers, and quietly left.

 

Walking out, I came to the conclusion that the temple is a fine specimen of Mewar's architectural heritage and its restoration yields insight into the engineering feats of decades-old master builders. Its structure, art and architecture is of intellectual interest to scholars, architects, historians and students and a curiosity interest for overseas and local tourists; to the community it is their temple, a part of their lives as it was of their parents' and grandparents' lives, and they show reverence for the deities with their offerings and prayer. Jagdish Temple is a living temple and not a ruin due to the focussed vision of Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar. It is still performing the function for which it was designed i.e. worship and secondarily to be admired. Reminiscing back to the trail, it was an eye-opener to witness the conservation and restoration of all aspects of the ancient temple which its founder had envisaged back in 1651 and at the same time appreciate the artistic, historical and tourist interest the temple has acquired from its survival through a number of centuries. Jai Mewar!
 

WORLD LIVING HERITAGE FESTIVAL
At Jagdish Temple, prayers are offered, ceremonies performed. Cultural heritage of Mewar is thriving.
 
WORLD LIVING HERITAGE FESTIVAL
'Living Heritage' is characterised by 'continuity' and approaches heritage as 'alive'.
 
24-OCTOBER-2018
 
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