Rehablitaion of Varune Dev Mandir

Manora Island




In the year 2007-8 the reports were received of the deterioration in the temple, during the past, and there existed alarm enough to act fast. The site was visited and initial site intervention plans were drawn on the bases of quick appraisal of the losses those had happened, and the damages wrought in due to neglect. Certainly it was the case of neglect, rather than a planned vandalism, thus the need was felt to raise the awareness, and attract more educated visitors to the site. The popular imagination was to be captured to realize that the site was of importance on the multiple counts. It had remained an Icon at the Island, known and remembered by all the inhabitants, who liked the temple view on many counts; it has a unique presence, a heritage building with the classic temple architecture. It has always been a soft reminder and a satisfying feeling for the citizens of the presence of another group of people among them, who proudly get along with their distinct practices, and still part of the daily life, pulling along with all as one nation. It is the reason that the temple is such a beloved spot, frequented by all visitors to the Island. Sindh Exploration & Adventure Society (SEAS Pakistan) felt the importance of the preservation of such an iconic building; an initial assessment of the site was done, and conservation requirements were drawn. The Society went ahead with approaching the Department of Antiquities, in consultation with the community. Pakistan Hindu Council also showed eagerness, as they were already preparing a list of issues they needed to be addressed. At that point of time the Department of Minorities, and the Department of Antiquities showed willingness to support the cause of rehabilitation of the dilapidated temple. But alas the neither the government nor the Pakistan Hindu Council were clear about the requirements. Some funds were infused, a structure was erected on the northeastern side of the temple, with in the temple complex, for the use of the visiting community. further more the glazed tiles which were put on the walls of the temple during 1930’s were peeled off from the walls forcefully. It damaged the stone structure at many places. Thankfully the work stopped, renewed attention brought technical proposals to the fore. SEAS Pakistan went ahead with convincing every stakeholder that the temple deserved a professional handling. The temple complex, which had undergone many phases of additions and alterations, called for a thorough re-appraisal as the need for removing or retaining such features / additions. The temple space grew in size gradually, the authorities on this military station were constantly yielding to the demands of the community, thus more and more area was ceded to the temple / Mandir. .

The Consercation Policy

• There was a need to spell out the policy for the works to be carried out, so that there should be a consistency of approach towards various components / works. • It was imperative to understand the changes which have occurred in the overall outlook of the society, pattern of visitors, requirements of devotees, the demographic change that has since taken place, when the Mandir was a prime spot, fetching a constant flow of the Darya Panthis and the devotees of the Jhuley Lal. It is interesting to note that there has been quite a big change where the Jhuley Lal cult has acquired a different sort of affinity with the temple goers throughout Sindh. • The land use on the Island too has undergone a remarkable shift; the normal traffic flow has been affected much, the roads and paths frequented previously are seeing a much change, which have been caused either by the official policy or by the development plans of Cantonment Board. • The approach to Mandir is presently from the sea facing side, whereas previously it was from the open grounds on northeast side of the temple. • The SEAS Pak spelled out its policy for the conservation that the main construction of (both) the temples must not undergo any alteration / or change. The causes of their deterioration to be fully addressed, and the measures should be taken to ensure that these are arrested to keep the structures available to the future generations. • The subsequent additions in the premises must be judged by the need of the site, keeping the requirements of the usage, and its correlation with present day needs. • The second point was concerned with the requirements of rehabilitation. The construction spree, supported by the devotees, generation after generation kept adding whatever was needed. It is visible that to provide the drinking water at least three successive structures were built, abandoning one when some fault was experienced. Likewise there was similar enthusiasm when the need of an underground water tank was felt, it saw inception of one and succession of one after the other. • This approach has been further observed in the different situation when the temple complex was abandoned, and accommodation with in was allotted to three families to live. In order to make the quarters habitable much was added and altered. So much so that the areas adjacent to the covered areas did also saw built up: a septic tank here, the sewerage duct there, small plate form to the entrance door, covered water passage etc. • With in the temple courtyard additional walls were erected to address the increased pressure for accommodation. • Walls were raised to bolster the privacy in the makeshift housing units; these created another problem of drainage, to counter it the floors were raised by cement mixed material, as well as by concrete block floors • The rehabilitation of the premises was the second priority, as stated above; here the requirement was to understand the sequence of the constructions, the additions made and subsequent alterations, their need and efficacy or requirement in the present circumstances. • The basic guiding principles, such as minimum intervention, and reversibility have an overarching role in designing the conservation works, besides documenting the premises before commencement of intervention. • It was also made a principle not to copy the lost elements; it was also considered imperative to keep as many evidences of the changes, damages and deteriorations as possible. Intervene only where the safety of the structure was at stake. • The concept was to make the Mandir complex available for the future generations, in order to its continued use, for its position as an iconic building, and for its heritage value. • Thus the approach for the rehabilitation was fulsome and total; even though it increased the project costs, and time period required, but there was no going back, as anything short of that would have affected the rehabilitation policy.

Ceramic Content

These dates along with the knowledge of the socio-cultural trends and understanding with regard to architectural preferences in the city of Karachi specially, and in India generally one can roughly assign the timeframe to various portions of the temple complex. It is a fact that the glazed tiles prior to 1920s were coming from the British factories; it was during the post war depression that the other sources started filling the local needs in India. The focus of the traders was so much that they started catering for the choice of the Indian public. These tiles were adapting to the popular and likeable themes, besides these preferred more bright colors than the ones used in the British tiles. Even the religious themes were abundantly painted on these tiles. This was one of the reasons that the demand for Japanese tiles increased, and these became one of the important imports. During the worldwide depression (1931 to 1934), Japanese exterior commerce grew. *[Trade Statistics of Japan, in The History of Yokohama City, Data, Vol. 2, Yokohama: Yokohama City,1980 Synopsis of the Ceramic Industry, Nagoya: Tojikai Kenkyusha, 1937 Carole Bess White, Collectors’ Guide to Made in Japan]

The expansion of this trade was in part due to European difficulties in supplying their colonies, allowing Japan to expand into new markets. These conditions helped in increase of their quantum (ceramic tiles) during the 1930s, so much so that these were the highest Japanese imports in Asia. As for as the identification and dating of these tiles is concerned one can rely upon the various marks on these tiles, because manufacturers in Japan responded very well to the conditions laid out by the customers, specially the USA, being the largest importer of Japanese goods. Before 1891 goods exported to America did not have to be stamped with their country of origin in English. Japanese ceramics usually had no back-stamps, or they had artists or their patrons’ names in Japanese characters. During 1891-1921 came the obvious change as the McKinley Tariff (which took effect on March 1,1891), required that all imported goods be stamped in English with their country of origin. At the time, “NIPPON” was considered to be an acceptable name for Japan, so most Japanese ceramics of this period were back-stamped “NIPPON” or “HAND PAINTED NIPPON,” often with a company logo as well. However, not all were stamped that way. There were still unmarked pieces, and some of the pieces were stamped “JAPAN” as well. The U.S. Customs Service ruled that “Nippon” was no longer an acceptable synonym. As of August 1, 1921 all goods were supposed to be back-stamped “Japan”. Technically the Made in Japan Era began when Nippon era ended in 1921, now was the requirement that the words,” MADE IN” be added to the back-stamps. Unmarked pieces sometimes slipped through Customs, but most of the ceramics from 1921 to 1941 are marked either “JAPAN” or “MADE IN JAPAN.”

During the war things changed, there was an embargo on Japanese imports during World War II. No new shipments were allowed from 1941 until the end of the war. However it is not clear whether the pieces already in India continued to sell or not. However it is a reported fact that it took nearly two years for the first Japanese ceramics to reach America after the war ended. With regards to India it is doubtful that any imports of Japanese tiles were made in the post WW II period. The major reason was that the inception of the Indian Ceramics industry, which was very welcome; we have reliable information regarding the manufacture of the glazed tiles from Gwalior. It manufactured tiles, mostly to the market demand for creating colorful surfaces, with the illustrations of religious and secular themes, decorative panels, border friezes, following the existing strong tradition created by their predecessor Japanese exporters. Apart from it the market had already adopted well to the polychrome-cemented tiles, made locally at all urban centers. The U S was and had remained the largest importer of the Japanese ceramics, thus it was mostly dictating the policy with regards to the trade requirements. The UNITED STATES occupied Japan from Sept. 2,1945, until April 28, 1952. The U S Customs Service decreed in 1949 that Japanese goods could be marked "OCCUPIED JAPAN", or "MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN," instead of "JAPAN" or "MADE IN JAPAN". The Occupied Japan back-stamp Era truly began from August 15, 1947 when the first shipment of Occupied Japan ceramics arrived in America. These tiles might have arrived in India, but as for as the present state of research suggest we don’t have such material from the actual sites of constructions. The initial phase of construction was carried out with the sandstone, it was limited to the temple buildings, and these two temples were definitely not constructed at the very same time. The slight variation in layout plan that show a bit of inconsistency to the right angle of Shiv Mandir is suggestive of this fact. The additions to the temple complex came, when a room was built by the side of the Shiv Mandir. There is an evidence of the wooden terrace built by the other flank of the Shiv Mandir that provided the twofold usage, one for sitting atop and enjoying the view of the sea, two it provided covered space underneath for the devotees. Then came another room at the back of the Varun Dev Mandir (towards seaside), it also had a wooden balcony overlooking the sea. This all was happening within the initial compound walls of the Temple Complex.

Later a covered space was created by the side of the Varun Dev Mandir, on northwest side by making a slight alteration in the boundary wall, while creating support for roof and opening up for ventilation. It all is labeled as the first phase of the development of the Temple Complex. As this small addition was not enough, the make shift roof and congested room was definitely not the answer to the increasing needs of the flourishing Manora Island, where the increasing number of the Hindu population was catered well by a couple of priests, who considered bringing their families to the temple complex as well. The community acquired the additional land (Survey No. 25), the open ground that was since long utilized by the community on festive days. It received a building, complex of few rooms and a verandah, as suggested by the plan. Its walls were thick enough to hold the roof; it must have rested over wooden rafters and beams, as no evidence is available of concrete slab having been there. This is what we label as the second phase of the development. As this was supposedly the residential arrangement, it didn’t catch the fancy of the sponsors, it explains why the space remained devoid of all decorative affixations. The excavations revealed that the building, though had the robust footings was raised poorly, and it might have been washed and flown away in one of the infamous rough monsoon cyclones. What followed was the careful cleaning of the wastage, and removal of the boundary wall on northwestern side, thus limits of the Temple Complex were enlarged. This time the boundary wall was taken to the farther limit of the Survey No. 25 (an addition of 4800sq ft). The whole area on the northern side now being open to sky was treated as vast courtyard, and catered for some communal activities. The new enlarged compound encouraged more activities and additional usage, there is reliable information regarding the inception of the Darbar Sahib, an outfit that might had catered for the ‘Recital/Pathh of Granth Sahib.’ The widened activities are witnessed through the indulgence of the folks, manifested by varied tile floors, sponsored variously, part by part. The remarkable thing that happened was developing a large part of the courtyard by raising it six inches above the ground, and same was paved with marble. It can be visualized that on the days whenever there was any activity the Shamiana would have been the obvious choice. This arrangement soon underwent change as indicated by the bases of RCC columns, pieces of a plaque were unearthed in the excavations, which reads “This big Hall was erected by (Shiri)mati Lachhmi Bai in the memory of her beloved husband … ar Das Seth Keematrai … and dedicated.” This hall was dedicated to the activities relevant to the devotees. The success of this dedication might have prompted some funds forthcoming, but that must have come after sometimes. As suggested by the above-referred plaque, as well as there exists no structural linkage. Nevertheless the alignment and the size almost remains, with the similar pitched roofs, as these were considered economic as well as durable.

The limits of the two installations were as follows: Installation A: from P19 to P21 on the northeast side, from P21 to the boundary wall on the southwest side, it was adjacent to Shri Varun Dev Mandir. Installation B: from the northwestern boundary wall to, all along the gridline No. 3 reaching the RCC column marked P15, being the northwestern limit, and along the grid line No. 5, from the northwestern wall to P4. The present northwest limit is much curtailed; since it was not advisable to lay trench on this side, but on the testimony furnished by old citizens and evidence afforded by the old photographs its limits can be well imagined. In this regards it is clear that the Installation B was a bit shorter in the length than the Installation A.

The Temple complex thus had three covered facilities at its pinnacle, within its boundary besides the Mandirs and allied dedicated spaces. This must have been the position by the 1940, as none of the plaques give any date beyond 1930s.

The application of the glazed tiles must not have begun before the year 1920. It can be said with certainty, as there is no tile coming from Britain; whereas all the glazed ceramics are from Japan, and we must understand that the revetment of the tiles became very popular in the thirties, that is the high mark of Japanese imports as the fact is fully endorsed by the inscriptions on plaques

These were liked by their bright colorful look and were applied on the walls, columns and holy spaces, however we have come across the marble tiles as the only rival to Japanese material; marble was paved to the floors and the stairs, these were liked for the soft white texture, also for its purity. We have the one such dated application on the floor of the Mandap of Varun Dev Mandir. Inception of hostilities brought an end to these imports, now the replacement has come in the shape of the polychrome cement tiles.