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ASI to conserve murals of ancient monastery in Lahaul Spiti facing fury of elements

Increasing rain and moisture has caused immense damage to the centuries-old murals in the monastery. ASI experts will now chemically treat the murals to protect them from moisture.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2018 11:32 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Lahaul and Spiti,Tabo monastery,Archeological Survey of India
Tabo monastery in Lahaul and Spiti district is also known as the Ajantas of the Himalayas for its artworks and paintings. (HT Photo)

With the 1,022-year-old Tabo monastery in tribal Lahual Spiti exposed to the threat of climatic change, ancient murals superimposed by the Buddhist masters will now be conserved by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) using chemical coating.

The monastery, a big draw for tourists, particularly the foreigners, is located at an altitude of 3,050 metres above sea level. Also known as the Ajantas of the Himalayas for its artworks and paintings, the monastery was founded by Buddhist king and monk Yeshe who was assisted by Richen Gampo, translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan, in 996 AD. The ancient monastery has a large collection of thankas (scroll paintings), manuscripts and statues carved on walls.

The paintings on the wall temples represent the Nyima and Gelupga tradtions of the Tibetan Buddhism which has four traditions. The other two are Kagyu and Sakya.

Increasing rain and moisture has caused immense damage to the centuries-old murals in the monastery. ASI experts will now chemically treat the murals to protect them from moisture.

“Frescos in the temple are in a fragile state. Our high ups have given nod for chemically treating murals in monastery. A team of experts will visit the monastery next week. The murals have been damaged due to humidity and increased precipitation in the region,” ASI superintending archeologist (Shimla) BR Singh said.

“Some of the murals as are old as the monastery. They are facing major hazard from the water seepage as moisture is peeling layers of paintings on the wall. The monastery management has met ASI officials and the local administration many times urging them to take up restoration work,” said Tseten Lama, administrator of the Tabo monastery

“The unique beauty of the monastery’s art and the historical role it played in the transmission of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and culture in the 10th and 11th centuries makes the a historically significant site,” Lama said.

Besides the artworks, the change in climate has impacted the mud-baked structures at the monastery.

About a dozen of them have been damaged due to water seepage. Since the inception of the monastery in 996 AS, the Spiti region experienced dry weather. But global warming has changed rainfall pattern in the region has changed.

“It experiences more rainfall than accustomed to the past,” said Bhupinder Thakur, programme coordinator at Krishi Vigyan Kendra Tabo. Till few years back, barley and potato growing was main agricultural crops nut now the region has become more conducive for apple growing.

First Published: Jul 06, 2018 11:32 IST