Grand show

Print edition : November 19, 2010

AN estimated eight lakh people visited the exhibition held during the millennium celebrations of the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur from September 22 to 26. Taking into account the huge crowds at the 16 pavilions, the State government, which organised the celebrations, decided to keep the exhibition open until October 8.

Besides the gallery of bronzes, there were pavilions of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department; the Government Museum, Chennai; the State Tourism Department; the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department; the Government College of Fine Arts, Kumbakonam; the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi; and the Archaeological Survey of India.

In organising this exhibition, State School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu drew on his experience of organising a huge exhibition during the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore in July 2010. T.S. Sridhar, Principal Secretary and Commissioner of both the Department of Archaeology and Museums, led the massive coordination efforts behind the exhibition.

The centrepiece was, of course, the gallery of 76 bronzes, which, Sridhar said, were sourced from the Government Museum, Chennai; the Thanjavur Art Gallery; the Tiruvarur Icon Centre, and the HR and CE Department.

The bronzes essentially belonged to hoards from Tiruvengadu, Tiruindalur, Velankanni, Vedaranyam, Tiruvarur, Mayiladuthurai, Needamangalam and Kulasekara Nallur, all situated around Thanjavur.

Sridhar said the aim of the exhibition was to showcase the glory of the Chola era, with special reference to Raja Raja Chola (regnal years 985-1014 CE). The pavilion put up by the State Archaeology Department was divided into various topics such as the early Cholas, the middle Cholas and the Imperial Cholas. Among the Chola period (9th century CE to 12th century CE) artefacts that were displayed were six copper plate charters, including the biggest found so far, with 86 copper leaves, issued by Rajathiraja Chola in 1053 CE and discovered at Tiruindalur (near Nagapattinam); exquisite sculptures; original epigraphs or their estampages; palm-leaf manuscripts; musical instruments, including a nadaswaram made of stone; and original sketches and old photographs of the Brihadisvara temple and Thanjavur town.

G. Muthusamy, Curator, Danish Fort Museum, Tranquebar, who was the first to identify the Tiruindalur copper plates and bronzes as belonging to the Chola period, patiently explained to visitors what the Tiruindalur charter said.

S. Vasanthi, Registering Officer, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, called the exhibition a grand success. She said: It created a lot of interest among youngsters in archaeology, epigraphy, architecture, history and culture. People enjoyed the fruits of our hard work.

T.S. Subramanian
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