When we think of Ancient Temples, most of us thinks of the Kings who commenced them rather than the Archetects and builders who carved them exquisitely. The very honouring tradition is still vital in the State of Tamilnadu as the Descendents of those Ancient Temples still show their craftsman ship and divine intelligence in repairing or constructing them.
There were guilds of Sculptors and their families with skills handed down to their descendants and they too pursued the ancient art. Such is Vaidyanatha Selvanathan of Tamilnadu, a direct descendent of the sculptors who built the wonderful Brihadeswara Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site. Selvanathan represents the 38th generation of his family, the sthapathis.
Selvanathan learned the art of sculpting from his uncle who’s known for the 133 foot statue of Poet Saint Tiruvallavur. Later he pursued his passion in the college of temple architecture established by his grandfather. Selvanathan says, the entire process of Temple construction or renovation was duely prescribed in Vedas along with finding right layouts and places to construct them. The practical knowledge of Temple building was passed down to generations, however, some of the key points were not available.
A Sthapathi is a multifaceted entity in the ancient period who would design everything out of his mind, from temples, statues and chariots; and also the City plans. He is also a master of various ancient arts as well as Music, dance, poetry and symbolism. He had to train his descendants as well as students in all those aspects.
-Viswanath Venkat Dasari