In Rajasthan's stark desert hinterland, Jolpa, a small village inhabited by a poor farming community, has been the home to a uniquely architectured historic temple for more than 800 years. It was only when their iconic temple began to deteriorate that the Jolpa people came together to value its history.
The temple, located in Jhalawar district, is believed to have been constructed in 1356 A.D. by a satrap of the Gagron kingdom, Chandra Bhan Singh Khichi Chauhan.
The architecture of this temple, where the deity Jalpa Chandra Bhan has been worshipped for centuries, has a very traditional construct. With no mortar or limestone, the structure has interlocked stones on the fulcrum principle - adding to symmetry and beauty.
The place grew popular as not just a religious centre but as a hub for cultural activities.
As the temple is left on its own to battle extreme weather conditions for over three decades, deterioration begins, making the villagers desperate to restore it. Their pleas to the local sarpanch, member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and others have proved futile.
"The temple stood as a unique element about the village. I called the villagers for a meeting and challenged them that only they can save their temple. That is when this small farming community set its steps to pool in nearly 11 lakh rupees," Thakur Ranvir Singh, the state convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), told IANS on phone.
All the villagers have been selling their farm products and raising money to preserve the temple, the name of which stood synonymous with the identity of the whole village. With the villagers' desire to keep the restoration process close to the classical form that it was constructed in, classical craftsmen have been deployed to task.
Singh lamented that in the current "state controlled system where priority is industrialization, there is gross negligence in the upkeep of heritage and identities."
He added that if history has to be preserved in any corner of the world, "people must become their own custodians and not rely solely upon the governments."
"There can be no better example of what people's participation, to restore their village's personality and pride, can accomplish," the culture preservation expert said.
The villagers have a new-found enthusiasm about their community and have formed a restoration committee by themselves to undertake the operations, Singh said.
With INTACH's support extended, the restoration operations in Jolpa are under way and the villagers hope it will soon bring the place back to its classical form.