Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur, Kerala, which is almost 1,300 years old, was awarded the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Excellence on 4 December.
The restoration work had been going on for a decade. The restoration was initially under the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) as they were working on the kitchen, murals, wood carvings, the south and the west gateways since 1997. It was later, in 2005, handed to the Venugopalaswamy Kainkaryam Trust (VGKT), Chennai, the donors, for its overall conservation, as per ASI norms.
Cochin Devaswom Board president MP Bhaskaran Nair accepted the award from the UNESCO representative Moe Chiba.
Chiba said, "The holistic restoration of Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple represents a milestone achievement in reviving a living religious heritage site using a combination of indigenous knowledge of vernacular building techniques and contemporary conservation practice."
The UNESCO Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation was conceptualised to encourage the countries in the region to restore and conserve its heritage. This is the fourth time that India was given this award. The award takes into account private and public-private efforts.
The architect, MM Vinod Kumar of DD architects that has taken on conservation projects before, oversaw the restoration work. The Hindu quoted him as saying, "Hindu temples are designed and renovated in such a way that the temple is considered a human body, with life and energy. The complex systems of vasthu and tantrasastra are followed to restore and revive the energy and life of the temple lost due to age. Thus the conservation process involved both physical and metaphysical efforts."
Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple was recommended by the ASI in 2012 to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple is devoted to Shiva and is made in the Kerala style, which is different from the Dravidian style of architecture found in other parts of South India.