S. Narayana Moorthy is one of the most sought-after temple craftsmen in the State
S. Narayana Moorthy
HE EXCELS at designing structures of temples and sculpting idols of deities. His chosen medium is cement. S. Narayana Moorthy may not have any academic qualifications that testify to his skills but he is one of the most sought-after artistes in the State.
He has completed work on more than 50 temples in Kerala and has several other projects in his kitty. For Moorthy, his work is an offering to God. A resident of Manacaud, 60-year-old Moorthy first conceives the design and puts it on paper. After the design is approved by the tantris, he begins work on translating the design into reality.
Keezharoor Sree Raja Rajeswari Temple (Neyyattinkara), Sree Mutharamman Temple (Nedumangadu), Kunnathu Baghavathy Temple (Pothencode), Koleduthu Kavu Devi Temple (Kayamkulam), Kochu Kodungallore Devi Temple, Chirackkal Sree Mahavishnu Temple, Mukkolakkal Devi Temple and Karikkakom Devi Temple are among those that bear testimony to Moorthy's craftsmanship.
The renovation of the Sreevarahom Mukkolakkal Temple undertaken by him took him places. Says Moorthy: "I began getting more work soon after the renovation got over."
Moorthy discovered his creativity quite early in life. After his Matriculation, he decided to pursue his passion for art. He spent hours drawing, sketching and clay modelling. At the age of 21, he started as an apprentice to master sculptors of the time.
Moorthy's father, Sasthav Achari, was an eminent sculptor attached to the Travancore Palace. But his father's untimely death forced Moorthy to look elsewhere for guidance.
He honed his skills under K. Vasudevan Achari of Pettah and Madurai Rajaram. Venganoor Ayyappan Achari instilled in him a sound knowledge of Vaasthusastra.
For a few years, Moorthy also worked on the sets of various films at Merryland Studio in Nemom. `Guruvayoorappan', `Kumarasabhavam', and `Swami Ayyappan' are the films he has worked in.
Moorthy has tried his hands at interior decoration as well. He has played a key role in the renovation of the VJT Hall at Palayam. The newly-constructed annexe of All India Radio at Vazhuthacaud, Kanakakunnu Palace, and interior decoration at the Secretariat are some of the projects Moorthy has worked on.
At work, Moorthy relies on the practical knowledge he has gained over the years. "Everything, be it determining the spot for installing an idol, putting up a flag mast or digging a temple well, is done in conformity with the principles of Vaasthusastra. If something goes wrong, I know it instinctively," he says.
His art has brought him recognition. Among his cherished mementos is a metallic statue of Lord Nataraja, which Moorthy received from Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore for his work on the gopuram at the entrance of the Kochulloor Subramanya Temple.
Moorthy's only regret is that often the credit for the work goes to the authorities who have commissioned it or the contractors who have undertaken it. But when his name is suggested by tantris after undertaking the devaprashnam, it makes up for all the difficulties that he encounters.
K. C. ASOK
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