After 32 years in IIT, Delhi, what inspired Professor S. Swaminathan to write about Mahabalipuram? Gowri Ramnarayan meets the engineer-turned-author
A casual trip to Ajanta in 1963 triggered a life-changing experience. Swaminathan realised that he had no background on the breathtaking wonders of the 29 caves. “Our monuments have become picnic spots. We have no understanding of heritage.” His anguish took positive shape when he devised a course in art and technology. “IIT is an export zone. The student's mind is in the U.S., he knows Cincinnati, not Tiruchirapalli. But a 5,000-year-old heritage cannot be trivial! Where is identity without culture?”
Five years of research on Ajanta resulted in a book with exhaustive details about every cave and fresco — location, layout, stylistic phases, politics, patronage, theme, composition, technique, pigment — even details about portrayal of women and methods of rendering limbs.
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