Sri Harmandar Saheb Ji

Namita Jaspal

Wall paintings: Tough decision making

Beautiful wall paintings of sacred Sri Harmandar Saheb Ji were flaking off and crumbling when a professional advice was at last sought in 2013.

Till 2013, these paintings were retouched or repaired by random staff or artists.

They would just touch up the white areas left by flaked off paint. More damaging has been such touch up over entire background with synthetic colours that were different in compatibility with the original paint media.

Here are some pictures showing the damage and earlier touch-ups:

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Main ideas behind decision making –

  1. Minimum intervention
  2. Maintaining the aura of peace and spirituality for which the temple stands.
  3. Following the basic code of ethics for conservation like use of original pigments, comparability and reversibility of the treatment material used.

In the picture below is an example where a little more than bare minimum intervention was required to go with the ambience and to restore the peaceful aura of the temple. Here the extra thing that we did was like redoing the white base so that the patchy effect of earlier repairs or restoration attempts was reduced. This picture shows condition before intervention and during conservation (nearing completion)

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(Kindly share your views and queries in the comments)

Author: namitajaspal
Namita Jaspal, with inherited skills of art and aesthetics and passion for science, opted to pursue post- graduation in ‘Conservation of Cultural Property’ after her graduation in Science from Delhi University in 1992. Four year intense training at National Museum Institute provided the right foundation to start a career in Conservation. She is currently practicing conservation consultancy for Heritage property including monuments and collections. She has been doing independent research in conservation techniques and procedures in Indian context. She is currently working on the conservation of wall-paintings of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden temple at Amritsar. The project is nearing completion and getting a lot of appreciation for the organized and ethical treatment it is providing. It is for the first time in the history of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden Temple) that wall painting conservation and preservation is being done in a scientific manner, keeping the codes of Ethics into consideration while decision making. Another project just completed is of the Conservation of Krishna Temple at Kishankot, Gurdaspur, Punjab. In her private Conservation Laboratory, she is not only providing onservation services, but also mentoring young aspiring conservators and archaeologists by the way of training and paid internships. She has been a guest lecturer at DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management). With all the updated knowledge database and innovative practical approaches relevant to the Indian conditions, she could successfully do curative and preservative treatment of very old textiles like a nine feet long flag from nineteenth century that is regarded as priceless memorabilia of second Dogra regiment at Chandi Mandir, and four hundred years old (seventeenth century) Chola Sahib Ji of Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Sri Hargobind Sahib Ji. Apart from this she has done conservation of Photograph collections, archival records, numerous paintings, manuscripts and other cultural objects. She is also involved in preparation of up-gradation proposals for museums and such organizations. Her expertise includes Conservation and preservation technologies and procedures for conservation of varied material like wall paintings, paper, photographs, textile, ceramics, stone, metal and archaeological objects.

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