The act of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) ‘painting’ the Rangghar white has stirred up a hornet’s nest.
A report appearing in the The Assam Tribune stated that Rangghar is a unique amphitheatre built during the Ahom era at Sivasagar. It is regarded to be the largest of the amphitheatres in Asia. It is being conserved by the ASI as a heritage structure.
The report further stated that some conservationists here are of the opinion that the Ahom-era structures, like the Rangghar, were never painted white. They were painted with brick reddish chun-churki (lime and brick powder). ASI sources said that they are not using any colour to paint the Rangghar white. What they are resorting to is lime tanning. There are references of lime tanning on the interior as well as the exterior of the walls, besides the ceiling of the structure. The ASI has been taking resort to lime tanning after completion of the repairs in the interior of this 18th century heritage structure, which was built by Swargadeo Pramatta Singha between AD 1744 and AD 1750.
When asked as to why the reddish chun-churki colour used to be there on the structure earlier, ASI sources said that during the repairs done on the previous occasions, lime tanning was not resorted to on the structure. “We are resorting to lime tanning to conserve the interiors of the structure’s walls. But we would not be resorting to this tanning while conserving the exteriors of the structure’s walls,” sources added.
The views expressed by the sources in the ASI on the issue have been supported by Nabajit Deuri, Technical Officer in the State Directorate of Archaeology. “The Ahom-era royal palaces, temples and other structures appeared to be white in colour because of the use of lime tanning over the coat of reddish chun-churki,” he said.
The Rangghar, Karengghar, Kalugaon Jagaddhatri Doul, etc., all have their walls appeared to be white in colour, because of such tanning, he said, adding, references of white tanning are there on the walls of these structures. He further said that the Directorate of Archaeology is planning to use lime tanning on the Kalugaon Jagaddhatri Doul. The Directorate is now conserving this temple.