'Granite stitching' saves 1,250-yr-old Indian temple from collapse

Written by: Ani
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London, Jan 18 (ANI): A 1,250-year-old temple in the southern part of India, which was in total ruins with dense vegetation growing over its dome, has been stitched back together.

The Kailasanathar Temple in Uthiramerur, Tamil Nadu, built during the Pallava King Dantivarman regime, was saved from collapse using 'granite stitching'.

Sathyamurthy of the REACH Foundation, an archaeologist and restoration expert, told the BBC Tamil service that the temple faced some serious issues that made repairs and renovation nearly impossible.

"The centuries-old monument is made up of a brick super-structure and a granite substructure," he said.

Cracks of more than three feet in width had developed in the intricately constructed temple dome made of brick and lime plaster, which is around 80ft high.

"It was about to collapse completely and there were so many conservation problems because of the growth of thick vegetation on the Vimana or dome of the temple," said Sathyamurthy.

While the upper part of the temple was in bad shape, the basement and plinth had other serious issues with cracks at more than 20 places in the granite stones.

Faced with serious technical problems, REACH teamed up with the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M).

"The conservation team was faced with a problem as to whether the stone plinth can bear the weight of the entire super structure," M S Mathews of the IIT-M told the BBC.

As funding for the project was another issue, the team decided that 'granite stitching' would be the most simple, least invasive and the necessary method to restore the temple to its original glory, said Mathews.

The site observation showed that the cracks in the granite stones were 'non-progressive' and laboratory tests were conducted to assess the load-bearing capacity of stitched granite beams in comparison with the solid, uncracked granite beams.

"Test results proved that the stitching would bear the desired load," said research scholar Anu Padma, who was involved in the project.

The cracks in the plinth were strengthened using stainless steel rods and an epoxy-based chemical anchor without disturbing the original structure.

"The inserted rod starts at one side of the crack and ends at the other side of the crack, holding both sides together. This is actually like stitching seen in cloth," said Padma.

With the basement safely secured, the team started conserving the superstructure, including the huge dome using a newly created lime plaster based on the old formula.

The conservation team now says that a weight of around 30,000 tonnes can safely rest on the basement and the plinth of granite rocks. (ANI)

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