The restoration work of Markandeshwar temple in Maharashtra by the Archaeological Survey of Indiais in full swing. Known as the “Khajuraho of Vidarbha”,the temple of Markandadeo is situated on the bank of River Wainganga in district Gadchiroli of Maharashtra. The temples belong to the Nagara group of temples of North India. On stylistic grounds, their date ranges in between 9-12th centuries CE. The temples belong to saiva, vaishnava and sakta faith. Most of the temples have a simple plan, with ardhamandapa, mandapa, antaralaand garbhagriha forming the component of the entire set up.
The most striking feature of this temple is the largescale destruction caused on the main shrine (garbhagriha)and the very first recordings made by Alexander Cunningham states that – about 200 years ago the shikhara of the main shrine and mahamandapa was struck by a lightning which led to the partial collapse of the shikhara(the finial, north and south facade). The thenGond Ruler renovated the temple about 120 years ago, trying to restore the fallen portions as much as possible. This restoration attempt was however not as per the modern conservation standards. However, the restoration of the temple by Gond ruler helped in the preservation of the religious character of this temple, which attracts a large gathering of devotees. Earliest photograph (1904) of these temples indicates that the main shikhara on the northern facade was majorly damaged as compared to the other two sides.
The Archaeological Survey of India initiated the largescale conservation work of this temple since November 2017. A detailed documentation process was initiated to carry out the condition mapping of the temple in order to carry out the conservation process. The documentation process revealed that originally a three-leaf masonry construction with iron clamps had been used to tie the adjacent stones of outer and inner stone walls, also, the inner area between the two walls was filled of rubble masonry with lime. Around 1500 stone fragments were dismantled and later documented in the process.
Detailed documentation of the architectural components, thickness of joints, their colour and the quarry was investigated;including the mortar used for binding was also analyzed. Prior to the conservation process, soil Investigation studies, foundation strengthening studies, studies of old as well as new stones, beam studies with full scale testing, beam positioning, capacity of beam in flexural and compression etc. were also carried out.
The conservation process was then started by numbering each stone and components of the garbhagriha was numbered and detailed drawings / photographs of each part of the temple was prepared, showing the numbered stones.This documentation was carried out before the dismantling work, in order to restore back all the original stone members in their original location maintaining their authenticity.
The stone members from the temple were then dismantled in one of the most strenuous and painstaking process and they were thoroughly cleaned in order to remove dirt, dust, algae and mortar remains.
In order to achieve high degree of accuracy, following the trial and error method, critical layers of inner masonry were arranged and placed on ground for checking the exact position and then placed and fixed at their original location on the temple.
The reconstruction of the temple in stone was then carried out to its original height and form duly following the detailed drawings showing each numbered stone.The references from the older photographs were also taken to check respective North, South and West side.
Lifting, cleaning and marking
The old rusted iron clamps were replaced by new stainless-steel clamps which were fixed using adhesive (hardener + resin + stone dust).
During the conservation process, all the original stone members, beams were retained and used extensively, and wherever they were found broken, they were mended together. The broken members beyond scope of mending and repairs were replaced with new ones.
As of now, the reconstruction process is in full swing and the ASI has completed the wall portion and the sikhara portion has been taken up now.
The quarry site for the stones used in the original temple construction was also identified along the banks of River Wainganga. A team of skilled craftsman are have been involved in the process of chiseling, finishing the architectural members, planning to fix them in the original form and shape.