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Friday, June 2, 2023

Chennai: Paintings recreating Chola era art ordered to be “modified” as they highlight Hindu deities

The Chennai corporation has asked artists to not “highlight” Hindu deities in an effort to re-create Chola era paintings as a part of beautification work. Artists allege “pressure” from certain groups which had complained to the corporation. As the Chola era paintings we have now are mainly from temples, artists wonder how it can be re-created without “highlighting” Hindu deities.

The Chennai corporation had hired painting artists to draw Chola era paintings on the sidewalls of 500 meter RBI subway on Rajaji Road as part of the beautification program “Singara Chennai 2.0”. It is a pet project of DMK. After 20% of the art has been completed, artists have been called by the corporation officials to ask them to “modify” the paintings so as not to stir up any controversy. Some artists, on the condition of anonymity, told TOI that there was pressure from certain groups which complained to the corporation.

However MS Prashanth, Commissioner (works) of the corporation, denied the allegation and said that it is “purely an internal matter”. The reason they gave is that some aspects of the paintings were not approved by the Greater Chennai Corporation and that they simply asked to rectify it. The civic body’s Twitter handle had shared the completed part of work on February 2.

It received a lot of admiration from Twitter users who wanted the same kind of artwork to be done in other parts of the city as well. But it is unclear what happened in between to order them to be “modified”. One of the artists who has been part of the team that has taken up this project told TOI that there is a misunderstanding that the artwork is about religion and termed them as a depiction of “Tamil culture and heritage”. Contractor Vijay who had received accolades for his prior work with the civic body said that he was asked to “modify the idols”. He further said “I explained the theme undertaken and further told them that paintings from other religious beliefs too will be included”.

It is clear that someone had a problem with Hindu deities being displayed as Chola era culture and went to the corporation to get them modified. The paintings shared by the Corporation’s twitter handle shows the divine couple Eshwara and Parvati. Rishi munis and Bhagwa can also be spotted among the paintings. It is not surprising that it disturbed anti-Hindu elements who exercised their power with the help of anti-Hindu DMK government. 

DMK, Dravidian organisations and their sympathisers have the habit of using dehinduised pictures of Saint poet Thiruvalluvar, Mahakavi Bharathiyar, freedom fighter VO Chidambaram Pillai, etc. So this act of “modifying” Hindu deities is seen as an attempt to dehinduise the history as well.

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