Local workers were hired to reconstruct the embankment wall at Hampi, providing an important investment into the local economy. Photo: Abha Lambah
Eight years after GHF began its project at Hampi, India, the conservation team’s tremendous efforts to stabilize and restore the stunning Chandramauleshwar Temple have been recognized by UNESCO-Asia Pacific with an Award of Merit for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
In announcing the awards, the jury called the project a “benchmark for conservation practice at archaeological sites in India.” In addition to being the first pilot project for the restoration of a state-protected monument at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi, the public-private partnership between the Government of Karnataka and Hampi Foundation, GHF’s key partners in the project, is a pioneering initiative that can serve as a “worthy model for future conservation projects” within the site and across the region.
From a physical conservation standpoint, the jury praised the team’s “meticulous technical and archaeological investigations of the stratigraphy of the site, with a sensitively executed consolidation of the soil and stone embankments.” The successful stabilization of the temple will ensure that future work on the temple structure itself, including aesthetic restoration, will be accomplished successfully.
At the start of the GHF Hampi project, Chandramauleshwar Temple was in poor condition, with collapsing gateways and fortification walls, internal and external deterioration, water and fire damage, and unchecked plant growth. Photo: Abha Lambah
“When we started work at Hampi in 2004, the site was facing a number of threats and had no real conservation plan,” said Jeff Morgan, GHF’s Executive Director. “Now, thanks to our partnerships with the local community, government, and Hampi Foundation, the temple has been stabilized and can serve as a model for future archaeological and conservation endeavors across the country.”
This is the 8th UNESCO-Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Abha Narain Lambah, GHF Hampi’s project director. An internationally renowned conservation architect, her firm’s projects have included some of India’s most important cultural heritage sites, including the Ajanta Caves, a World Heritage Site, and the Maitreya Buddha Temple. Her master conservation plan for Hampi was one of the first of its caliber in India.
“Abha has been the lynchpin to our success at Hampi,” said Morgan. “She’s brought passion, experience, and expertise to the project, drafting a first-of-its-kind master plan that sets Hampi up for generations of success.”
Abha Narain Lambah, project director for GHF Hampi, has received a Sanskriti Award, Eisenhower Fellowship, Charles Wallace Fellowship and Attingham Trust Fellowship. Photo: ANL Associates
The 15th century Chandramauleshwar Temple, which overlooks two rivers on a popular pilgrimage route to a sacred mountain, is centrally located in Hampi and is one of the site’s most prominent architectural buildings. Prior to GHF intervention, the temple’s gateways and fortification wall were in danger of collapse, while its interior and exterior were deteriorating and threatened by fire damage, water damage, plant growth and other factors. Since then, the temple’s foundation and upper embankment walls have been consolidated and stabilized.
The local community has benefited from the GHF Hampi project through employment on the site – from local boatmen being employed to ferry project team members up and down the river on coracle boats, to local stone masons, craftsmen and laborers being hired to prepare and place stone in the embankment wall. Also among the local stakeholders are the religious pilgrims and sadhus living in the ashram on the site, who have benefited by the steps leading up to the temple being reset, therefore making it easier for them to access the ashram.
Chandramauleshwar Temple, one of the most significant extant structures at Hampi, consists of a temple and associated foundation walls next to the Tungabhadra River. Photo: Abha Lambah
Established in 2000, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation recognize “excellent achievement in successfully conserving or restoring heritage buildings and properties in the region by the private sector or by public-private initiatives.” The awarded projects span a wide range of conservation projects from private residences to palace complexes. Over the years, the projects have illustrated the increasing momentum and level of conservation in Asia and the Pacific.
“The diversity of project types entered [in 2012] was encouraging, covering a broad spectrum of conservation issues, from urban streetscapes and military properties to archaeological sites,” said Tim Curtis, UNESCO Bankgok’s Chief of Culture Unit. Curtis was chair of a jury panel that consisted of 10 architectural conservation experts from eight different countries, including past winners of the award. He said the panel was “particularly impressed” with this year’s submissions.
Click here to explore Hampi on Global Heritage Network (GHN)
Click here to view a Slideshow on Hampi.