A faithful tracing of the Chengam Rāmāyaṇa mural is a fundamental outcome of this project. It is the traced drawing that ultimately becomes the cloth painting or an animated movie. The tracing is done as follows. The composite camera image is placed in a graphics editing computer application in one layer, locked in that layer, and then traced. In the digital tracing, the damaged parts are reconstructed (see sample reconstruction) based on reference from other sources. The sources maybe visual (painting/sculpture), they maybe textual (epics, stories, grammatical treatises) and, as is very often the case, the sources are both visual and textual. Going further, the project also draws from the knowledge of hereditary artists who know the epics by heart and hand, who can paint Rāmāyaṇa scenes from their 'muscle memory'. The Chengam murals are to be reconstructed by Shri. Ramachandraiah, a kalamkārī artist from Kalahasti.

The line drawing obtained from the trace and reconstruction is of great value. It is a master artwork that can be used for mechanised replication on any medium - glass, metal, cloth.

As observed by the reviewer of the project, "Digital tracing to scale prepares the base format on which a distress mapping or graphic condition report is prepared. Both forms (digital stitching in full colour depth and tracing) that the project proposes are often not done by the custodians who are supposed to be responsible for the upkeep of the site principally because of lack of awareness of the practicality of this documentation technique."

The traced drawing is also more easily shareable. To give an idea, a stitched image of a 20' x 10', in actual size and in the ideal image resolution would be in excess of a gigabyte, whereas a tracing of the image, saved as a Scalable Vector Graphic, not only makes the file really small (kilobyte size), but also makes the image scale-independent. You can zoom into the graphic and enlarge to several thousand percent and you will see that the image does not degrade/pixelate. Fortunately, most South Indian mural art beginning from the Vijayanagara period (14th century c.e.) is primarily linear. There are no tonal variations as in the art of Ajanta or Thanjavur. This means that a good B&W trace of the narrative mural will suffice to share it over the internet.

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Processional musicians. A trace of a section of a mural at Narumbunathaswamy Temple, Tiruppudaimarudur, Ambasamudram Taluk, Tirunelveli District, Tamilnadu. 17th Century c.e.

 

Move mouse over to magnify. Click to toggle between original painting and digital restoration.

An interactive comparison between the digital tracing and the original mural of the processional musicians from the southern panorama of the Venugopala Parthasarathy Temple, Chengam.