Restored Govindji temple, Imphal, Manipur - elegant, but simple in architecture!

Govindji temple, Manipur.

Govindji temple, Manipur.

Bell tower, Govindji temple,

 Govindji temple,

Govindji temple, manipur

Nestled in the midst of surrounding hills Sri Govindji temple in Imphal, Manipur state is a quiet destination for  people who seek nature and  peace of mind in an old temple that was recetly renovated back to its old  glorious days.

Sri   Govindji temple in Manipur, adjacent to the  palace of the former rulers of the Manipur Kingdom is dedicated to  Sri  Krishna  and  his consort Radha. The idols are enshrined in the central part of the sanctum/garbagriha flanked on either side  by chambers; one  for Krishna and Balarama (south chamber)  and the other for  Jagannath, Subhadra, and Balabhadra (north chamber). First built in  1846  during the reign of Maharajah Nara Singh, it was later rebuilt in 1876  by Maharajah Chandrakriti. It is the largest Vishnu temple in this part and has been popular for a long time. 

Unlike the Dravida or Nagara style of architecture, this temple, rectangular in plan (as per Vastu Shastras)   follows a simple design with tall big pillars in the fa├žade quite similar to the ruins of Parthenon in Greece,  The hut-shaped roof  of this temple is the reflection of elements of West Bengal architecture. The temple is set within the confines of a big Kangla Fort of  Imphal  guarded by a pair of elephants at its site.

.Location map of Imphal, Manipur.

In the construction of temples in West Bengal terracotta was widely used as it was a tradition. The temple built in 1842 has features  like  portico, sanctum and prathakshana path. The brick-lime masonry building is on a raised platform.  Burmese teak is widely used in the building, particularly in the open  verandah  which has thick quality wooden rafters  to support the ceiling. Structurally it is similar to what was called in the 19th and 20th centuries in south India ''Madras terrace.'' The cylindrical columns  support the beam above on the structure.  The  cornice above is adorned with three tiers of railings.  At the four corners of the roof above the verandah are mini shrines.  Sanctum is close to the hall which opens out on three sides  into the verandah. It  raises up to the  the terrace of the first railing. The peculiar feature is the cuboidal sanctum  garbagriha is divided into chambers, but the partition is not visible outside.

Govindji temple, Manipur.

Two gold multi-arched plated domes in this temple suggest  incorporation of various styles of design. The parabolic-shaped dome of Bengal architectural style  and  the railing ornamentation which is typically Islamic shows the blend of two  different styles. Atop the crown  are  Amalica-sila  and  kalasa with long pinnacle carrying the temple flag, a tradition quite common in the northern states.

Govindji temple, manipur

If you go back on the colonial time under the English company, when Manipur was annexed, not content with land-grabbing, the British   removed the original  quality marbles  laid  in several parts the temple and the gold leaf on the dome. In 1869 the temple was damaged due to a severe earthquake including three early  tremors.   (this part is geologically prone to tremors and  earthquakes). Later the temple became a neglected site and lack of periodic repairs accelerated its dilapidation. This led to cave-in of barrel-shaped roof, In the aftermath,  continuous weathering impacted  the structure, promoting  growth of weeds, bushes and vegetation on the walls.  The damages to the temple were widespread.   Because of dampness 

GovindJi temple, manipur restoration in

on the walls and floor  stucco plaster on the external walls suffered a lot.   Flooring in the corridor, wooden rafters, beams and balusters  were in various stages of ruin. The temple almost lay bare. The moisture-induced  cracks and masonry joint damage  were taken care of ingeniously. So were the sculpted  motifs on various  walls  that were  replaced in a smart way. 

 The restoration work on the highly damaged structure was a tough one.  The underlying task is this old monument has to be conserved for the posterity.  Conservationists took particular care in choosing  right  construction materials in sync with those used centuries ago Besides, they also employed experienced  artisans and craftsmen who are well-versed in traditional old techniques and  and creation of old art forms.    An interesting part of the conservation work was careful removal of undamaged old bricks that were sundried and reused in the work.  In the place of damaged teak wood, they used bamboo (widely grows in this state). Apart from being light weight, it has high flexibility and  tensile strength. These  characteristics  will make the roof strong and  earthquake-resistant.  But bamboo needs periodic  check has to be made resistant  to termite attack. At the plinth level water proofing was done to prevent dampness  Vault was strengthened by a grid of bamboo similar to basket making. Corners are supported by  steel reinforcements The renovated Govindji temple that has been here for a long time is an epitome of devotion to Sri Krishna  and Radha in this part of India  and its new look has attracted  large number of devotee. Photo credit: