Muslim artisan brings glory to 20 temples
A Muslim artisan’s dedication towards restoration of old temples has helped the Archaeological Survey of India to bring back the glory of 20 historical and dilapidated Hindu temples across the two Telugu States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The 32-year-old artisan, Shaik Rabbani, a native of Guntur, began his journey in 2000 by associating himself with the Archaeological Survey, which had begun works to restore the Bhoothpur Shiva temple in Mahabubnagar. After the successful assignment in 2002, there was no looking back for the then young artisan of 17 years.
“The temple restoration and conservation works differ from temple to temple as the sculpting techniques and the material used are different. In the present scenario, it is very difficult to get the material used then, as they are not available now,” Rabbani said
Rabbani and his team of about 40 artisans, who mastered the art over the years, have so far restored some historical temples and heritage sites. He learnt the art of temple renovation from his father late Shaik Hassan Ahmad, who used to undertake repairs of temples ruined by the vagaries of climate.
Walking down the memory lane, the artisan said, “the first assignment which I took up was to build a church at Kalwakurthy in Mahbubnagar district in 1999. I consider it as a stepping stone in my journey because my work was recognised and also appreciated by people, resulting in my second assignment of constructing a temple in Achampet in 2000.”
“The temple restoration and conservation works differ from temple to temple as the sculpting techniques and the material used are different. In the present scenario, it is very difficult to get the material used then, as they are not available now,” Rabbani said.
“The granites with which we work are about four types which are bonded with lime in at several temples and forts. In Bhongir fort, about 400 steps are being carved from the same monolith gigantic hill which has a fort, as it is very difficult to find similar kind of stone,” adds Rabbani.
A pious man, the sculptor said that he has been enjoying temple restoration works over the past decade. “The only day I could pray was on Fridays as I have to visit nearly 10 different sites where work is in progress. The team is assigned work and paid advance along with food material to cook, so that work does not come to a halt at any moment in time. Each worker is paid daily wages varying from Rs 600 to Rs 1,000 and even more for experienced artisans,” he said.
The artist said that even though they were not trained at the well-known sculptor school “we are good in what we do. The students are good in theory and we are good at practicals. All we have to do is respect the original sculptor’s art and intelligence while carrying out restoration works.” However, the team is concerned about the increasing trend of damaging idols in centuries old temples in Telangana for the sake of hidden treasure.
“In Bhoothpur, we are sculpting a new Shiva Linga as some miscreants tried to uproot it hoping to get treasure and damaged the very rare black granite Linga,” Rabbani said. Currently, a five-member group of Rabbani’s team is working on the 11th century Chaya Somasekhara temple in Panagal in Nalgonda district, 110 km from Hyderabad.
In other places like, Palem, Kondapaka and Seven Tombs restoration work project in Golconda funded by the Aga Khan Foundation, Kollapur, Nagarkurnool and Madugula temples in Telangana. The Turkapalli artisans gained expertise in rebuilding an entire temple by dismantling piece by piece over the years.