Restoration work of Markandeshwar temple in Maharashtra by ASI in full swing

The restoration work of Markandeshwar temple in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is in full swing.
Known as the “Khajuraho of Vidarbha”, the temple of Markandadeo is situated on the bank of River Wainganga. The temples belong to the Nagara group of temples of North India. 
On stylistic grounds, their date ranges between 9-12th centuries CE. The temples belong to Saiva, Vaishnava and Sakta faith. Most of the temples have a simple plan, with Ardhamandapa, Mandapa, Antarala and Garbhagriha forming the components of the entire set-up.
The large-scale destruction caused on the main shrine (Garbhagriha) according to the very first recordings made by Alexander Cunningham states that about 200 years ago, the Shikhara of the main shrine and Mahamandapa was struck by lightning which led to the partial collapse of the Shikhara (the finial, north and south facade). 
The then Gond ruler renovated the temple about 120 years ago, trying to restore the fallen portions as much as possible. This restoration attempt was, however, not as per the modern conservation standards.  However, it helped in the preservation of the religious character of this temple, which attracts a large gathering of devotees.
The earliest photograph (1904) of these temples indicates that the main shikhara on the the northern facade was severely damaged as compared to the other two sides.
ASI initiated the large-scale conservation work of this temple from November 2017.  A detailed documentation process was initiated to carry out the condition mapping of the temple in order to carry out the conservation process, an official press release said.
The documentation process revealed that originally a three-leaf masonry construction with iron clamps had been used to tie the adjacent stones of outer and inner stone walls, also, the inner area between the two walls was filled with rubble masonry with lime. Around 1500 stone fragments were dismantled and later documented in the process.
A detailed documentation of the architectural components, the thickness of joints, their colour and the quarry was initiated, including analysis of the mortar used for binding. Prior to the conservation process, soil Investigation studies, foundation strengthening studies, studies of old as well as new stones, beam studies with full-scale testing, beam positioning, the capacity of the beam in flexural and compression etc. were also carried out, the release said.
The conservation process was then started by numbering each stone and components of the Garbhagriha. Detailed drawings/photographs of each part of the temple were prepared, showing the numbered stones. This documentation was carried out before the dismantling work, in order to restore all the original stone members in their original location maintaining authenticity.
The stone members from the temple was then dismantled in one of the most strenuous and painstaking process and they were thoroughly cleaned in order to remove dirt, dust, algae and mortar remains.
In order to achieve a high degree of accuracy, following the trial and error method, critical layers of inner masonry were arranged and placed on the ground for checking the exact position and then placed and fixed at their original location on the temple. 
The reconstruction of the temple was then carried out to its original height and form duly following the detailed drawings showing each numbered stone. The references from the older photographs were also taken to check respective North, South and West sides.
The old rusted iron clamps were replaced by new stainless-steel clamps which were fixed using adhesive (hardener + resin + stone dust).
During the conservation process, all the original stone members, beams were retained and used extensively. Wherever they were found broken, they were mended together.  The broken members beyond scope of mending and repairs were replaced with new ones.
As of now, the reconstruction process is in full swing and the ASI has completed the wall portion and the Sikhara portion has been taken up.
The quarry site for the stones used in the original temple construction was also identified along the banks of River Wainganga.   A team of skilled craftsmen has been involved in the process of chiselling, finishing the architectural members, planning to fix them in the original form and shape, the release added.

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