TEZPUR, April 4 - With an attempt to revive the legacy of Srimanta Sankaradeva, the experts from Tezpur University with the help of other enthusiasts have channelised their efforts to restore the life-size wood carvings of Batadrava Than (shrine) at Bordowa in Nagaon district.
It is one of the best known Thans founded by Srimanta Sankaradeva. The Batadrava Than is also known for its significant wood carvings that highlights many interesting facets of Sankaradeva�s Vaishnavite Movement.
Many scholars consider such wood carvings as the �finest specimens of the entire range of wood carving in the subcontinent�. However, with time some of these finest wood carvings have faded away, and they need urgent attention.
As a mark of social responsibility, Prof Robin Kumar Dutta, an expert in traditional dyes and pigments, along with Prof Swapan Kumar Dolui, an expert in adhesives and polymers, both from the Department of Chemical Sciences of Tezpur University, with active support from the university administration, have engaged themselves to restore the centuries-old priceless life-size wood carvings of Kirtan Ghar of Batadrava Than to their original look with Hengul-Haital (vermillion and yellow arsenic, used traditionally in Assam for colouring of wooden instruments, walls, mukhasilpa) and other traditional pigments in the traditional way.
The two professors were helped by Dr Naren Kalita, an expert in the traditional art forms of Assam, in ensuring the sanctity of the traditional art aspect of the sculptures with periodic visit to the worksite.
The largest of the wooden sculpture is a Gadur Pakhi (a bird creature of Hindu mythology), measuring about two-meter tall and three-meter wide painted with Hengul-Haital, and is dated back to 1833. Another similar but slightly smaller sculpture of Gadur Pakhi and two wooden sculptures of Hanumana were set up subsequently. Though all these wood carvings were initially painted with traditional pigments, all of them became dirty and unattractive in the course of time. The older Gadur Pakhi and one Hanuman were later painted with synthetic enamel paints too.
Resource persons from various places, including Majuli, Nagaon, Tezpur and Tezpur University, were involved in the cleaning, preparation of the paints by grinding and mixing with gum of elephant�s apple and water, application of the paints, the final art works and application of a final thin coat of natural sap (La Charowa) in three phases.
Niran Kotoki and Prabin Bora from Auniati Satra, Majuli, applied the final thin coat of sap on the sculptures after Badal Das and Dewan Singh of Tezpur had done the final art works in the final phase. Chitta Ranjan Bora and Mridu Moucham Bora from Nagaon joined the traditional artists from Auniati in painting the sculptures with the traditional paints prepared by them together with several others, including Hari Narayan Kowar and Ujjal Jyoti Dev Goswami from Batadrava.
A team of chemists led by Pinku Gogoi and Rajkamal Mohan, PhD students of Tezpur University, supervised the entire work starting from cleaning to ensuring safety in handling the toxic pigments. Samples of the pigments at different stages have been collected for further research.