The fine art of devotion
The renovated St. Francis Xavier's Church in Thrissur has been adorned with murals, painted in the traditional Kerala style, which depict Biblical themes.
PHOTOS: K.K. NAJEEB
DEDICATION: Sadanandan and Kalamandalam Bindulekha with a mural depicting the `Way of the Cross'
According to official records, only 10 churches in Kerala have murals, and all of them go back to the 16th century. Now, the renovated St. Francis Xavier's Church at Vijayapuram, near Cherur in Thrissur, has 16 murals that depict important incidents in the life of Jesus Christ.
Fourteen of the murals, each of six square feet, depict the `Way of the cross.' A rectangular painting of 15ft x 10 ft on the ceiling of the altar titled `Divine soul,' follows traditional Indian artistic concepts and has a circular drawing of 64 flowers that represent the 64 kinds of fine arts as described in Indian aesthetics.
The mural behind the main altar aesthetically deals with the resurrection of Christ. The lavish use of blue for the background imbues the painting with depth and conveys the feeling of infinity and the omnipotence of God, making the mural symbolic and experimental.
Among the murals in the State this might be the only one in which blue has been extensively used as red is usually the dominant colour in murals.
The figures in the murals are shown wearing the costumes that was worn by people in middle Asia during the time of Christ. However, the colours, pattern of drawing and sensibilities are in tune with the highly stylistic school of Kerala murals.
The murals were painted by Sadanandan, a seasoned mural painter from Thrissur. He was assisted by his sister-in-law Kalamandalam Bindulekha, an up-and-coming artist and dancer.
The mural `Resurrection.'
"In every way, this assignment was a challenge; painting the roof of the altar was strenuous but it gave us the joy of creativity," says Bindulekha.
"The main hurdles were the doubts expressed by some of the local residents. They wondered if Biblical themes could be portrayed in the mural traditions of Kerala as most murals centre around Hindu mythology and Gods. However, the support of Fr. Paul Vattakuzhi and his associates, who assigned this task to us, helped us overcome such hurdles and finish the murals," beams Sadanandan.
People from different walks of life and communities have made it a point to visit the church to see the murals.
"I firmly believe that all arts lead towards God," says Fr. Vattakuzhi.
He adds that the murals are rich in Indian motifs and styles. He feels that temples and churches should endeavour to preserve and promote this unique tradition of art. "The oriental Christian missionaries never refrained from Indianisation of several values. Although, initially, some orthodox believers had some doubts about this mission, after seeing the murals, they expressed their satisfaction," Fr. Vattakuzhi adds.
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