Temples without Gods: An Art Initiative to Rediscover, Restore Lost Hindu, Sikh and Jain Temple Heritage

Temples without Gods

When partition happened in 1947, people didn’t just leave behind their land, home or property. They also left behind their culture and roots. They also left behind their places of worship, their symbols of faith. Today, nobody looks at those mute structures with respect. Now people look at them with pity and contempt.


Once they stood majestically, as places of worship, as a symbol of Art and Architecture. Hundreds of years back, our forefathers and ancestors bowed their heads in reverence and prayers to the Deities that resided within these places of worship. Now they are gone, broken into pieces and thrown away. Many were sold to smugglers. Today when the wind blows, those forgotten temples weep in silence.


These are our lost Mandirs. Our Gurudwaras. And Jain temples. More than 50,000 temples were razed to ground and destroyed. But many still survive. Not only in India but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia. Not all of them were vandalized. In many cases the demographic change also caused the fate of those temples.


All over Asia there are thousands of temples which are existing in sheer neglect, apathy and ignorance. As dilapidated and disintegrated ruins, they once enjoyed the power of the prayers of millions of devotees and influenced the fate of those people. Many of these represent architectural, historical and cultural heritage of the bygone era, the beliefs of our ancestors and the roots of our identity and lineage. Let us make the world aware of the neglected shrines and try and restore these great monuments of our Indic heritage.


Art Project – Temples without Gods


It’s an opportunity of romanticizing the ruins. This project is a collaborative idea and initiative to create a collection of Artistic creations in a published Coffee Table Book. My appeal to various like-minded artists is to draw or paint some of these forgotten, neglected temples or places of worship, as many they wish to, in any medium they wish to. Be it in Pencil, Charcoal, Pen and Ink, Pastels, Water-colour, Acrylic or Oil. Black and White or Colour. He/She will have all the freedom. A reasonable amount of importance should be given to details to capture the distinct character of the structures.


I am pursuing some foreign publishers also to bring this project to light. Ishwar willing. Team Temples without Gods is also trying to get Dr. KK Mohammed, ex ASI on board who had furnished clinching evidence of Ram Temple underneath Babri Masjid in the long disputed case.


This will be a unique collection, for the first time in India, a collection compiled in a Coffee Table Book with Art, not with usual photographs. I as the anchor point will provide pictures, carefully researched and collected with history of each of the temples etc. I will provide high resolution images which can be printed in A3 size easily for ready reference, if he/she needs to. The artist can also value add or delete some element from the background which is currently there in the images available. We can discuss further once an artist is part of the project.


Plan of Action


I appeal to artists to do/create about 7-8 pieces of work each, in whichever medium or surface they desire. In any size they prefer to. The Coffee Table Book is planned to have a collection of approximately 100 works of art. If possible, more. Digital images of the works will be printed in the CTB with history of the subject and all details about the Artist. A brief resume and contact details with some samples of the style of work he/she does will also be there in CTB.


The artist will keep the sole rights on every piece of work he/she does. Temples without Gods (TWG) Foundation/Trust will claim no rights on those creations. Deadline for being ready with art works is February 2021. We have about eight months.


I also appeal to people who know of any such ruined or neglected temple/gurudwara in their vicinity to click pictures from different angles, preferably with a DSLR and mail to me. Every such enthusiast will be considered a ‘contributor’ and will feature in the coffee table book with proper recognition of his/her efforts.


Exhibitions of Temples without Gods


The Temples without Gods Trust also plans to hold exhibitions across the country. Not only in major Metro cities and State capitals but also in Tier-II cities like Bhopal, Indore, Varanasi, Chandigarh, Mangalore, Pune, Jamshedpur, Jammu etc.


Furthermore, we plan to take the exhibitions abroad in Europe, USA and cities in Australia, Singapore, Middle-East and wherever there is a sizeable population of Indian diaspora who are emotionally attached with our roots, culture and heritage. The formalities and logistics will be worked out. A catalogue will also be printed which will have all details about the artists involved, whose works will be on display at any exhibition. The safety and security of all pieces of art will be taken care of by the Trust and it will ensure that no harm comes to art works while transporting or displaying.


Professional Logistics companies will be hired. Renowned cultural, social organisations and govt institutions will also be involved for support and patronage.


The Cause – Restoration of Temples


Whatever money is generated, either by a percentage from the sales or by donations and sponsorship, money will be donated to NGOs and voluntary organisations who are working for restoration of damaged, neglected temples etc. across India. An organization called Reclaim Temples is already working on restoration of such temples.


Before I end, I would like to appeal to fellow artists who are proud of our roots and heritage, art and architecture to collaborate and participate in this project. I am not looking at established artists or professionals, even an amateur or self-taught person is welcome. Their contribution with their talent & skill will make this coffee table book a success.


I as an artist will also participate in this project. I will also provide reference pictures of the various kinds of old heritage structures which are not known. Those are not mere damaged or ruined structures, they are reflections of our ancestors and glorious past.


Come let’s pay a creative tribute to our lost heritage. Let’s make this project a success. As a tribute to our forefathers. And for future generations to come.


For any further queries on Temples without Gods initiative, feel to drop in a mail to ratnorudra@gmail.com.


Featured image of temples without Gods is a click by Manoshi Sinha, Researcher on Indian History and ancient temples.

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Ratno Rudra

Ratno Rudra is a Brand Building Consultant, Advertising Creative Director, Story and Script Writer, Painter, and Photographer.
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