Aset of six teakwood colonial-style pillars, each resting on a lotus-shaped circular base with four-sided cornices on the top, will be the star items at the Mystery of Chickpet auction next week. Salvaged from the Shri Adinath Jain Swetamber temple, built in 1922 by the resident Jain community in the neighbourhood of Chickpet in Bangalore, the set of pillars is one of several other lots from the temple to be put on sale by the Bangalore-based auction house Bid and Hammer Auctioneers Pvt. Ltd. “The size of the Jain community in the locality is increasing rapidly, so the trustees decided to break it (temple) down and build a larger space. They got in touch with us to check if the sculptures and art in the temple were valuable,” says Maher Dadha, chairman and managing director, Bid and Hammer, about what he believes to be the country’s first architectural auction.
Click here to view a slideshow of artefacts that will be put on sale
A locality otherwise characterized by narrow lanes, crowded shops, old buildings and barely enough space to walk, Chickpet is historically important, being one of the first towns to form Kempegowda’s Bangalore—Kempegowda is credited with building the city. “Although the items on auction are dated to be less than a century old, they reflect the culture of the time,” says Dadha, pointing out, by way of example, that the apsaras carved on the cornices of the wooden pillars wear crowns that resemble the one worn by Queen Victoria.
Spartan in its original style of construction, the temple has been repeatedly renovated over time, resulting in a fusion of different architectural styles, with heavy British influence. So while doorways and arches show signs of Mughal influence, these are flanked by colonial-style marble dwarpals (guards). The interiors were adorned with vintage art nouveau majolica ceramic tiles from Japan which blended seamlessly with the marble murals of the Shatrunjay Mahatirth (depicting a pilgrimage taken by Jains) and Pahari school miniature paintings of Lord Mahavir.
Fusion of styles: The Jain Swetamber temple was built in 1922 in Chickpet.
Eighty per cent of the 139 lots on sale are from the temple; the rest are assorted items that go with the historical architecture theme. “We have to make sure that people who are coming from across the world have a good variety of items to pick from,” says Dadha.
But given the fact that the temple is only 90 years old, there is also a view that the temple and its contents are not significant in value. “It is just a modern edifice that is being put on auction. It is healthy that an auction is being held, so several people have a fair chance to own the pieces, but otherwise I wouldn’t say it is adding value to the world of art,” says Naman Ahuja, associate professor of ancient Indian art and architecture, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
However, art collectors are excited at the concept of the thematic auction, maintains Dadha, adding that he has had several non-resident Indians calling him to express interest. “Many of them have residences in India and are very excited about having a portion of a temple to adorn their houses,” says Dadha, whose team took close to a year to extract portions such as the pillars, arches and embedded murals without damaging them. Some of the pieces might not be perfect, Dadha says, but that could not be helped. No restoration work has been done on any of the items, which have been valued in the range of Rs7,500-42 lakh.
The Mystery of Chickpet auction will take place on 10 March at ITC Windsor, Bangalore. For details, log on to www.bidandhammer.com
Photographs by Hemant Mishra / Mint