Dr. V. Ganapati Sthapati
Both S. Santhana Krishnan and Krithikka Karrupia had the privelege to study and mentor with the late Shilpi Guru Dr. V. Ganapati Sthapati. They learned the principles of temple architecture from one of India's pre-eminent Vastu architects, scholars, sculptors, builders and educators.
A BRIEF SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND WORKS OF Vaastu Vijnani Dr. V. GANAPATI STHAPATI.
His was the birth that was made on earth for the resurgence of a waning tradition. No wonder that such a birth should come to happen in the clan of Indian shilpis, who were scientists of yore, and who were later pushed into oblivion far from the main stream of the Indian society. In the year 1927, in the village of Pillayarpatti was born Dr.V.Ganapati Sthapati, as the first son of Sthapati M.Vaidhyanathan and Smt.Velammal. Inheriting a rich family legacy dating back to 1000 years and more, it took no time for the young Sthapati to imbibe the nuances of his traditional skill and the science ruling it. The culturing of the mind even at a very young stage left a remarkable imprint in the young mind, urging him to explore more and more about the spiritually enriched tradition.
The impressive genealogy
Dr.Sthapati belongs to the aboriginal creative tribe of traditional sculptors and architects, who were the originators of the spiritual culture of Bharata Desa, inhabiting the land of South India from time immemorial. They were the custodians of the very supreme science of Vaastu Shastra, that dealt with cosmic principles of Universal creation, which the shilpis extended to their creations on earth. This science was expounded and propagated by the divine architect and builder of yore, Brahmarishi Mayan.
Dr.Sthapati's lineage can be traced back to 1000 years, when the Great Brihadeeswara Temple of Tanjore was built by his forefather Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perunthachan. This Temple of Chola period, which has been announced as a World Heritage by UNESCO was built in 10th century AD.
The royal patronage lasted upto the 18th century, after which the family came under the patronage of 'Marudu Brothers', Chinna Marudu and Periya Marudu, under whose rule his great grand fathers Periyanayakam Sthapati and Pazhampathi Sthapati, built the magnificent Kalaiyar Koil in Siva Gangai district of Tamil Nadu.
During the 19th century onwards the family came under the patronage of Nagarathar community of Chettinadu, who have been since then patronising the art and culture of Tamil Nadu which has led to the upcoming of a number of temple structures dotting the landscape of Tamil Nadu.
Tutelage and initiation into the tradition
Sri.Ganapati learned and practised architecture and sculpture under his paternal Uncle and Father, who were eminent Shilpacharyas. His father who was a versatile scholar with outstanding knowledge in Vaastu, Agama, Astronomy and Astrology, deeply influenced Dr.Sthapati, who also developed a keen interest to learn the shastras of his tradition. Sri.Vaidyanathan Sthapati is also the architect and builder of outstanding works of architecture including the Ponnambalavaneswarar Temple, Colombo, Mathrubhootheswarar Temple, Ramanasramam, Thiruvannamalai, the towering Rajagopuram of the Pillayarpatti Sri Karpaka Vinayagar Temple and also other temples at Mathur and Ilayathangudi, patronised by the Nagarathar community of Tamil Nadu. Even from his child hood Sri Ganapati would spend hours losing himself in the world of Vaastu Shastras, initiated by his scholarly father. His erudition extended to all fields of ancient wisdom, including Vedas, Agama Shastras, Vaastu scriptures of Mayamata, Manasara, Kasyapa Silpa Sastra, Mayan's Aintiram, Surya Siddhanta etc in addition to an explorative command over the scientific works of Mayan. His spiritual temperament and his endearment for the traditional arts of music and dance also helped him to widen his knowledge-base.
Having finished his schooling he wanted to graduate himself in Mathematics, from the Dr. Alagappa Chettiar College, Karaikudi. Kindled by his burning desire to bring to lime light the underlying supreme science of Vaastu tradition, even from a very young age, Sri. Ganapati started putting down on paper the various facets of the science and technology, which writings were appreciated by his elders and well wishers. Most of those writings found a prominent place in the local dailies and other magazines. After going through one of his writings on the definition of a Sthapati, which appeared in 'The Hindu', dated 13th March 1957, his father overwhelmed by pride and joy, wrote to his son "The art of Shilpa Shastra is much blessed by your entry into its fold". These golden words were more than proved by Sri.Ganapati, who later went on to become the doyen of Indian Vaastu Shastra.
A dream made into a reality
Having had a deep insight of the tradition he inhered, and having heard of the spectacular works of art and architecture accomplished by his forefathers, Sri.Ganapati was often annoyed about the negligence meted out to the shilpi clan and the set back suffered by this unique culture.
In the year 1957, he started his career as a Sthapati under Religious and Charitable Endowments Board, Tamil Nadu, at Sri Dandayuthapani Swamy Temple, Palani. His desire for bringing in an elevated status to this tradition monopolised his thought process and the first seed for such a move was sown by the then Premier of Madras State, Chakravarthy Rajagopalachari, who after seeing the splendid works of sculpture and architecture done by Sri.Vaidyanatha Sthapati at several temples and memorials, felt the strong need to revive this traditional culture of India and thus a scheme was proposed to open a Training Institute for traditional sculpture and architecture. This was duly supported and encouraged by the Chairman, All India Handicrafts Board, Smt.Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya, the great visionary who revolutionized the cultural revival of India. Thus in 1957, the Government Sculptural Training Centre was established, headed by Sri.M.Vaidyanatha Sthapati. Even at his young age Sri.Ganapati was proficient enough to draw the syllabus for this Institute.
After his father, in the year 1961, he was selected as the next Head of the Institute and his career of 27 years as the Principal was not only an era of dedicated service but of a 'tapasya', during which no other force could deter him from his devoted service to his tradition, which he actualized by imparting a systematic training to the young students of the institution. In the process, which was a slow yet steady uphill task, aided by efficient official support and governmental benevolence, he could elevate the status of the Institution to a full fledged College of Traditional Architecture and Sculpture.
This college has since then produced several graduates in Temple architecture and sculpture, who are proficient enough to carry on this traditional skill.
Countries visited on work schedule
USA, UK, Canada, Hawaii, Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji Islands, Japan, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, Ceylon, Nairobi (East Africa) etc.
Countries visited on research schedule:
Germany, Australia, Holland and Central and South America, (Maayan land).